Five men indicted in Jewish sect kidnapping case

Times Herald-Record, New York/July 29, 2019

By Heather Yakin

White Plains — Five men charged with conspiring to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother from Woodridge and later from Brooklyn to return them to a conservative ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect have now been indicted in the case.

Early on Dec. 8, Yante Teller, 14, and her brother, Chaim Teller, 12, walked out of a Woodridge home where the family was staying and got into a car.

Prosecutors say the two were abducted as the result of a plot by Nachman Helbrans, 36; Mayer Rosner, 42, and his son Jacob Rosner, 20; members of the Lev Tahor sect, which their mother had fled; and Aron Rosner, 45, of Brooklyn, Mayer Rosner’s brother. A fifth man, Lev Tahor member Matityau Malka, was charged with aiding a second kidnapping plot in March.

An indictment handed up earlier this month charges all five men with conspiracy to defraud the United States and international parental kidnapping. All entered not-guilty pleas, and the case has now been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Nelson S. Roman.

According to court documents, the children’s mother is the daughter of Shlomo Helbrans, who founded the Lev Tahor sect in 1987. The group headed to Canada after the elder Helbrans’ 1994 conviction for kidnapping a 13-year-old, and later to Guatemala in the wake of child abuse allegations. Shlomo Helbrans died in 2017.

According to federal court papers, his son, Nachman Helbrans, took over leadership of the sect and moved the group in an increasingly extremist direction. His sister, the children’s mother, fled and brought them to the U.S. in October after learning that leaders wanted her then-13-year-old daughter to marry Jacob Rosner. She won full custody of her children on Nov. 14 in Kings County Family Court.

After the kidnapping, court papers say, Helbrans used his own children’s identities to get the children through security and onto a plane at Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) International Airport on Dec. 8, and the children were dressed in regular, secular clothing to avoid arousing suspicion.

U.S. and Mexican authorities found the children in Mexico. Helbrans and the Rosners were arrested in December.

The indictment charges that on four different dates in March, Malka provided cell phones to Yante Teller, allowing Helbrans to speak to her while being held at Westchester County Jail.

Four of the men are being held without bond pending trial. Aron Rosner was released on a $10 million bond, subject to home confinement and electronic monitoring.

In court papers, his lawyers said he is a member of Satmar congregations in Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife and their six children. He is the primary caregiver for the kids, two of whom are severely disabled. Aron Rosner cooperated with authorities after his arrest and helped find the children, his lawyer noted in court papers.

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