NEW YORK (AP) — A New York man has been charged in the kidnapping of two children whose mother recently fled an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Guatemala.
The FBI arrested Aron Rosner of Brooklyn this week on charges accusing him of providing financial assistance to members of the religious group Lev Tahor in an international abduction scheme.
Rosner’s defense attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
The FBI said in court filings that the children — 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother Chaim Teller — were kidnapped Dec. 8 from their home in upstate New York and taken out of the country.
Surveillance footage shows the children walking out of the residence before 3 a.m. and entering a vehicle.
The boy was spotted with Lev Tahor members at a hotel in Mexico City days after the kidnapping, according to the court filings. The whereabouts of the children was not clear Thursday.
The FBI did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The bureau said in the court filings that the children’s mother had been a “voluntary member” of Lev Tahor, but escaped the group in recent weeks after the organization became increasingly extreme. Her father, Shlomo Helbrans, founded the sect and, in 1994, was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old in New York. Helbrans was later deported to Israel.
“The mother indicated that it was not safe to keep her children there,” FBI Agent Jonathan Lane wrote in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, referring to the group in Guatemala.
Lane referred in the complaint to news accounts of Lev Tahor subjecting children to “physical, sexual and emotional abuse.”