Lev Tahor Operatives Convicted At Trial Of Kidnapping Offenses

Mordechay Malka and Matityau Malka Convicted of Scheme to Kidnap 14-Year-Old Girl and 12-Year-Old Boy From Their Mother

United States Justice Department Southern District of New York/June 2, 2022

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that MORDECHAY MALKA and MATITYAU MALKA were convicted in White Plains federal court of kidnapping following a three-week jury trial.  The defendants, members of an extremist Jewish sect called Lev Tahor, participated in a scheme to kidnap a 14-year-old girl (“Minor-1”) and a 12-year-old boy (“Minor-2”) from their mother in Woodridge, New York in December 2018.  The kidnappers then smuggled the children across the U.S. border to Mexico, where they reunited Minor-1 with her adult “husband,” who she had religiously “married” when she was 13 years old.  After the children were recovered and returned to their mother, the defendants and their co-conspirators tried to kidnap the children a second time in March 2019.  Two co-conspirators, Nachman Helbrans and Mayer Rosner, were previously convicted of kidnapping and sexual exploitation charges in connection with this case after an October 2021 trial and have each been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and the evidence presented at trial:

MORDECHAY MALKA and MATITYAU MALKA are U.S. citizens and members of Lev Tahor, an extremist Jewish sect that has been located in several different jurisdictions, including New York, Israel, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala.  In or about October 2018, the mother of Minor-1 and Minor-2 escaped from Lev Tahor’s compound in Guatemala and arrived in the United States in early November 2018.  Also in November 2018, a Brooklyn family court granted her sole custody of the children and prohibited the children’s father, a leader within Lev Tahor, from communicating with the children.

After the mother fled and settled in New York with her children, MORDECHAY MALKA and other Lev Tahor members devised a plan to return Minor-1 and Minor-2 to the Lev Tahor community.  Then, in December 2018, the kidnappers took the children in the middle of the night from a home in upstate New York and transported them through various states and, eventually, to Mexico.  MORDECHAY MALKA and his co-conspirators used disguises, aliases, drop phones, fake travel documents, an encrypted application, and a secret pact to execute on their kidnapping plan.  At the time of the kidnapping, Lev Tahor leadership was seeking asylum for the entire Lev Tahor community in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Following a three-week search involving hundreds of local, federal, and international law enforcement officers, Minor-1 and Minor-2 were recovered in Mexico and returned to their mother in New York.

Then, in March 2019, members of Lev Tahor again tried to kidnap the children.  The leader of Lev Tahor, Nachman Helbrans, attempted another kidnapping of the children while incarcerated in Westchester, New York.  MATITYAU MALKA acted as the operative on the ground to execute the attempted kidnapping.

MORDECHAY MALKA, 27, of Guatemala, and MATITAU MALKA, 30, of Guatemala, were convicted of one count of conspiring to commit international parental kidnapping, to unlawfully use a means of identification, and to enter by false pretenses the secure area of an airport, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  MORDECHAY MALKA was also convicted of two counts of international parental kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison for each count.  MATITYAU MALKA was also convicted of one count of attempted international parental kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison for each count.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the FBI, United States Customs and Border Protection, the Department of State, the Transportation Security Administration, the New York State Police, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department, the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office, the Village of Spring Valley Police Department, Special Agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and our law enforcement partners in Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, and Israel.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, Jamie Bagliebter, Jim Ligtenberg, and Daniel Tracer, and paralegal specialist Shannon Becker, are in charge of the prosecution.

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