A US federal court in New York has indicted two senior leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, Lev Tahor, on charges of child sexual exploitation and kidnapping.
According to a US Department of Justice statement, Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Nashman Heilbrance and Mayer Rosner were found guilty in White Plains federal court of child sexual exploitation and kidnapping after a four-week trial by jury.
The defendants, leaders of an extremist Jewish sect called Lev Tahor “The Immaculate Heart”, plotted to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy from their mother in Woodridge, New York. The defendants then smuggled the children across the US border into Mexico.
Prosecutor Williams said: “Nachman Hellbrans and Mayer Rosner brazenly kidnapped two children from their mother in the middle of the night, in order to return a 14-year-old girl to an unlawful sexual relationship with an adult man.”
The US Department of Justice statement indicated that the defendants used pseudonyms, forged travel documents and encrypted software to carry out the smuggling plan.
Hellbrans Hellbrans (the son of the founder of Immaculate Heart) and Rosner faces up to life imprisonment.
In October 2018, the mother of the two children decided that it was no longer safe to stay in the Guatemalan “Liv Tahor” community, as she fled to the United States in November of the same year, and obtained sole custody of the children by a decision of the Brooklyn Family Court.
The kidnapping incident took place in December 2018, before law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad were able to return the two children to their mother after 3 weeks of searching, according to the statement.
The Immaculate Heart sect was founded in Jerusalem in the eighties of the last century, and later moved to Canada and then to Guatemala in 2014.
This sect has a bad reputation and is known as the “Jewish Taliban” because of the extremely strict rules imposed on its members, especially women and children.
This sect attracted media attention earlier this year, as the Guatemalan authorities arrested groups of its supporters when they tried to go to Iraqi Kurdistan and then to Iran.
According to documents filed with a US federal court in 2019, the Immaculate Heart leadership had requested political asylum in Iran in 2018 and declared its allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.