Jewish ‘cult’ leaders sentenced for kidnap of 2 NY kids, including a child bride, in twisted sex scheme

Opinion: Without any clues of tunnels, stained mattresses. and coverups of such bizarre behaviour that such a thing could happen.

Leaders of a Jewish fundamentalist cult were sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for kidnapping two kids— including a child bride – then smuggling them into Mexico, prosecutors said.

Three brothers, who are members of the Lev Tahor sect, allegedly forced the girl back into the arms of her adult “husband” in a sickening and sophisticated sex scheme.

Yakov Weingarten, 34; Smiel Weingarten, 28; and Yoil Weingarten, 36; were sentenced Tuesday for snatching the children from their upstate New York home in 2018 after their mother fled Lev Tahor, a group of zealots who practice stomach-churning habits like child marriages, underage sex and family separations, US Attorney Damian Williams said Wednesday.

Yoil Weingarten, 36, will serve 14 years in prison for kidnapping and sexual exploitation, the feds said. Government Exhibit, US v. Weingarten
Yakov Weingarten will also serve 14 years. Government Exhibit, US v. Weingarten

The brothers — who live in Guatemala — used a variety of disguises, aliases, drop phones, fake travel documents and encrypted apps to pull off the 3 a.m. kidnapping that December day, then smuggle the brother and sister across the border, the feds said.

Local, federal and international authorities launched a massive three-week search that eventually found Yante Teller, 14, and Chaim Teller, 12, and returned them to their mother.

In March, a federal jury convicted the trio of child sexual exploitation and kidnapping charges.

As punishment, US District Judge Nelson Román has sentenced Yakov and Smiel to 14 years in prison, and Yoil to 12 years, the feds said.

“The sentencing of the Weingarten brothers holds them accountable for kidnapping children from their mother in the middle of the night, including for the purpose of coercing a child into a sexual relationship with an adult,” Williams said in a statement.

“This Office will do everything in its power to protect children and use every available tool to investigate and prosecute those who sexually exploit them.”

The twisted saga began in 2017, when Lev Tahor leaders arranged for Yante — then just 12-years-old –to marry an 18-year-old man, the feds said.

The brothers are leaders of Lev Tahor, a fundamentalist cult now found in Guatemala.

Even though the two were never legally married, Lev Tahor leadership — which included the three Weingartens — demanded the two have sex and lie about their ages and relationship to others.

“For example, Lev Tahor leaders instructed child brides to deliver babies inside their homes instead of at a hospital to conceal the mothers’ young ages from outsiders,” the statement said.

The girl’s mom, Sara Helbrans, fled the community compound in Guatemala around October 2018 after deciding it was no longer safe for her kids.

It was the only life Helbrans had ever known — her father, Shlomo Helbrans, founded the group in Jerusalem back in 1987.

Eventually, all six of her kids joined her, Williams said. And a Brooklyn family court banned the kids’ dad — another cult leader — from communicating with them.

“I am very imminently afraid from the cult and what the [children’s] father and other cult members may do now that we are no longer under their power and manipulation,” the frantic mom wrote in a court filing.

That’s when the Weingartens hatched a plan to kidnap Chaim and Yante, and bring them back to Guatemala — and Yante’s 20-year-old “husband,” prosecutors claimed.

The cult has floated around between countries for years, mostly trying to evade authorities.

Their plan was initially successful. They grabbed the kids in the dark of night, forced them out of their home in Woodbridge, New York, and flew them out of an airport in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Then they reunited the poor teen with her “husband,” which let him continue his illegal sexual relationship with her, according to officials.

Authorities caught up with them three weeks later, and freed the children in the small town of Tenango del Aire, near Mexico City.

They then brought them back to New York — but that wasn’t the end.

The zealots again tried unsuccessfully to steal the kids in 2019 and 2021, Williams said.

The group to which they belong claims it practices “unadulterated Judaism” that demands severe modesty for women and girls, who must wear burka-like coverings from head to toe.

What do you think? Post a comment.

The cultists settled in Brooklyn in 1994, but Helbrans’ father was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy and later deported.

The whole group of about 40 families fled to Canada, then Guatemala. The group has been constantly dogged by accusations including child neglect.

What do you think?

Written by Colin

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