Members of Lev Tahor in Guatemala.
(photo credit: JORGE LOPEZ)
The FBI arrested five leaders of the Jewish extremist cult Lev Tahor in Mexico, Yeshiva World News reported.
In a nightly operation and in cooperation with Interpol, the FBI raided Lev Tahor-owned properties in Mexico and is working on transferring the suspects to the US, the report said.
Charges against the men might include kidnapping, sexual abuse, running a cult, extortion, intimidation, child abuse and more.
A child that was found during the arrests was identified as the child of Guatemalan converts who became Jewish through Lev Tahor but left the cult after being faced with the horrors of the groups reality. The child was returned to the parents, who still live a religious Jewish life in Guatemala, YWN said.
The arrests might be the result of a chain of events that started when the late founder's daughter, Sara Helbran, escaped the cult after being told her 13-year old daughter would be married off to the son of a community leader. Having undergone mistreatment after refusing the request, Sara Helbrans escaped the Guatemalan headquarter of Lev Tahor, managing to gather only three of her six children, the New York post wrote.
The struggle to get the remaining children out of the hands of the group and into her custody led Helbran to alarm American authorities who are working to locate the 14-year old daughter and 12-year old son of Sara, who were reunited with their mother in New York before being kidnapped again, likely by a member of the cult. The teenagers are not believed to be in imminent danger.
Founded in New York in the late 80's, Lev Tahor settled in Canada in 2003. The group's founder Slomo Helbrans was convicted for kidnapping a child he was tutoring in the early 90's in New York, but released after only two years in prison. After being deported to Israel in 2000, Helbrans took his movement to Canada in 2003 where the cult remained for 10 years before arousing Candian authorities interest, thereupon collectively fleeing to Guatemala. Shlomo Helbrans drowned in Mexico in 2017
, leaving control of the group in the hands of his son Nachman and some associates who are believed to be even more extremist.
They have now been arrested.
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