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Children Kidnapped Via Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport

December 30, 2018
Children Kidnapped Via Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport

NEW YORK — Three alleged leaders of extremist Jewish sect Lev Tahor are charged with kidnapping two children in New York and moving them out of the country aboard a flight from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

The children have been found safe in Mexico, authorities said Friday.

Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner and Jacob Rosner were arrested Thursday after they were deported from Mexico to New York. Their attorney did not return an email seeking comment.

The three plus a fourth man arrested earlier have been charged with abducting the victims — 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother, Chaim Teller — on Dec. 8 from their home in upstate New York and taking them out of the country.

Defendant Aron Rosner, who was arrested in New York City on Dec. 23, worked with several people across the United States, Mexico and Guatemala to try to return the siblings to the Lev Tahor community in Guatemala, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York.

The children were taken to the airport in Pittston Twp., where surveillance footage showed them being ushered through airport security by a man whom the complaint does not identify. Days later, the children were in Mexico, the complaint said.

The airport is sharing what it can with law enforcement, including surveillance footage, said airport Director Carl Beardsley Jr..

The FBI said in court filings that the children’s mother had been a “voluntary member” of Lev Tahor but fled the group in recent weeks after its leadership became increasingly extreme. Her father, Shlomo Helbrans, founded the sect and, in 1994, was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old in New York. Shlomo Helbrans was later deported to Israel. He drowned in Mexico in 2017.

Nachman Helbrans is the brother of the kidnapped children’s mother and the new leader of the sect, authorities said. The criminal complaint against the defendants includes reports of Lev Tahor subjecting children to “physical, sexual and emotional abuse.”

The kidnapped children were found Friday morning in the Mexican town of Tenango del Aire and will soon be reunited with their mother, the FBI said.

FRANK WILKES LESNEFSKY, staff writer, and THE NEW YORK TIMES contributed to this report.

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