Extremist Cult Kidnapped Children From Sullivan County
Members of an extremist cult kidnapped children from the Hudson Valley and smuggled them into Mexico.
On Thursday, 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, 27, and Matitayu Malk, 30, were found guilty on kidnapping offenses.
Both are members of an extremist Jewish sect called Lev Tahor, officials say.
Woodridge, New York Children Kidnapped
In December 2018, they participated in a scheme to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy from their mother in Woodridge, New York. The children were then smuggled across the U.S. border to Mexico.
In Mexico, the 14-year-old girl was reunited with her adult “husband,” who she had religiously “married” when at the age of 13.
Mordechay Malka and Matitayu Malk 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, officials say.
Extremist Cult Kidnapped Children From Sullivan County, New York
In December 2018, 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother Chaim Teller were seen getting into a vehicle in front of their Fallsburg home and the car driving away.
Before being kidnapped, the children were staying with their mother in Sullivan County. Six weeks prior, the mother fled with her children from Lev Tahor in Guatemala. News reports indicate children in Lev Tahor are often subject to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
The mother was previously a voluntary member of Lev Tahor and her father was its founder. According to the mother, the new leader of Lev Tahor, her brother, is more extreme than her father, causing her to flee the group, officials say.
The children were found in Mexico and returned to their mother in New York following a three-week search involving hundreds of local, federal, and international law enforcement officers.
The kidnappers allegedly used disguises, aliases, drop phones, fake travel documents, an encrypted application, and a secret pact to execute the kidnapping plan.
After the children were returned to their mother, their kidnappers 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 the kidnapping. Both were sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Extremist Cult Members Guilty of Kidnapped Children From Sullivan County
Mordechay Malka and Matitayu Malk were found guilty by a jury of one count of conspiring to commit international parental kidnapping, unlawfully using a means of identification, and entering by false pretenses the secure area of an airport.
Mordechay Malka was also convicted of two counts of international parental kidnapping. Matitayu Malk was also convicted of one count of attempted international parental kidnapping.