4 more members of fringe haredi Orthodox sect indicted on kidnapping charges


(JTA) — Four more alleged members of Lev Tahor, a fringe haredi Orthodox sect, were indicted in New York for conspiring to kidnap two children from their mother and return them to their sect.

One of the men, Mordechay Malka, was arrested this week at Newark Liberty International Airport and remains in custody, the New York Post reported, citing the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Three others remain at large.

The charges unsealed Friday in White Plains come days after five leaders of the sect, who were arrested in December, were indicted on similar charges.

They are accused of participating in kidnapping two children, a 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother. Their mother is Sara Helbrans, the daughter of sect founder Shlomo Helbrans. The mother had fled the group, based in Central America, and returned with three of her six children to New York’s Sullivan County. Three other children were returned to her 10 days later.

Lev Tahor, which has about 230 members, according to the Post, relocated to Guatemala from Canada in 2014 following allegations of mistreatment of its children, including abuse and child marriages.

It moved in 2016 from the outskirts of Guatemala City to the small village of Oratorio after religious disputes with its neighbors, and reportedly crossed the border from Guatemala to Mexico in June 2017. Members may have returned later to Guatemala.

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