NEW YORK: Four members of an extremist Jewish sect based in Guatemala have been arrested in New York on charges of kidnapping two children, federal prosecutors have said.
According to a statement issued Friday by the US Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of New York, the four men are members of Lev Ahor, which practices a form of ultra-Orthodox Judaism with teachings that include veiling women from head to toe in black tunics.
One of the men, Aron Rosner, 45, who lives in Brooklyn, was arrested on December 23.
The other three — Nachman Helbrans, 36, alleged to be the leader of the sect, and Mayer Rosner and Jacob Rosner, aged 42 and 20 respectively, all living in Guatemala — were deported on Thursday from Mexico, where they had taken the children, and arrested on their arrival in New York the same day.
They stand accused of organizing the kidnapping on December 8 of a 14-year-old girl and her brother, 12, in the village of Woodridge, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of New York.
Approximately six weeks earlier, their mother had fled the sect in Guatemala fearing for her family’s safety.
She had previously been a “voluntary member” of the group which was founded by her father, but believed it would become even more extreme under its new leader, her brother Nachman Helbrans.
The four suspects devised a plan to kidnap the victims to take them back to Guatemala via Mexico and flew the children out from a small airport outside Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The children were recovered on Friday with the assistance of Mexican authorities in the town of Tenango del Air before being brought back to their mother.
Each of the suspects are charged with one count of kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.