New York - Two important members of the Lev Tahor Jewish cult have been convicted for their involvement the brazen 2018 kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy and his 14-year-old sister, who were taken to Mexico where the girl reentered into a sexual relationship with her 20-year-old “husband.” One of the members was convicted for his role in another attempted kidnapping of the same children at a later date.
It took just one hour of deliberation for a jury to find Matityahu and Mordechay Malka guilty of conspiracy for kidnapping, international kidnapping, and attempted kidnapping. Current cult leader Nachman Helbrans and member of Lev Tahor administration Mayer Rosner have already been convicted and sentenced, and five more alleged co-conspirators have been charged.
During the trial, testimony brought to light some of the inner-workings of the cult and significant details of the kidnapping conspiracy.
On July 7, 2017 Lev Tahor cult founder and leader Shlomo Helbrans died under suspicious circumstances in a remote Mexican river. His son Nachman took control of the cult and added stifling new restrictions as he secured his new power. Within a week of his leadership, he forced his hyper-allergenic sister Miriam to consume sesame at a public gathering where she died.
(More details on those deaths and the cult can be found in these two recent documentary films that we produced: https://youtu.be/fMLBIwiEv3I
Nachman’s younger sister Sara Helbrans-Teller, mother of the kidnapped children, testified during the trial that several weeks after her father and sister’s death, Nachman informed her that her then-12-year-old daughter was to be engaged with a 19-year-old man. When Sara protested, Nachman publicly excommunicated her for a year, removed her 6 children from her home, and proceeded with the marriage of her daughter.
In October, 2018 Sara managed to escape from the cult compound near Oratorio, Guatemala along with several of her children. She made her way to the home of friends in New York where she obtained orders of custody and protection.
On December 6, 2018 Mordechay Malka rented a vehicle. Working with numerous co-conspirators that included his cousin Matityahu Malka and cult leader Nachman Helbrans (currently serving 12 years for his role in the abduction), they rented a motel room and purchased disguises. The Malkas smuggled drop phones to the 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother (at a later attempted kidnapping, Matityahu Malka gave the girl a drop phone and sedatives).
Two days later, at around 3:00 in the morning, the children snuck out the house and into a waiting vehicle that drove them to Scranton airport, where Nachman Helbrans was waiting. Using passports belonging to Nachman’s children, they spent the day flying through several airports, eventually entering Mexico.
Incredibly, they not only broke numerous federal laws but as it was a Saturday, the Jewish day of rest, their behavior went against basic Jewish Halacha (law), a code the cult claims to adhere to more strictly than any other Jewish sect.
It took three weeks and over a hundred officers from law enforcement agencies in three countries to eventually track down the children in Mexico and reunite them with their mother. In 2019 and 2021, Lev Tahor cult made two more attempts to kidnap the children.
Mordechay and Matityahu opted to serve as their own council at the trial but after repeatedly proving incapable of abiding by court proceedings, that privilege was revoked and they were replaced by standby council.
During the trial, the court heard from numerous witnesses including the husband of the 14-year-old girl, officials from several agencies, and a former member of the cult who had participated in the plotting and carrying out of the abduction, and who detailed the atmosphere of fear and punishments inside the cult. Evidence produced included recorded phone conversations, photographs, video footage, and documents.
After an hour of deliberations, the jury found both Malkas guilty on all charges, including conspiracy for kidnapping, international kidnapping, and attempted kidnapping.
“I feel bad though,” admitted Lev Tahor survivor Mendy Levy, who escaped the cult a few years ago. “Because Mordechai Malka was not really a bad guy. He was just forced to do what he did by the Weingartens, Nachman Helbrans, and Mayer Rosner."
Sentencing for Matityahu and Mordechay Malka will be in September.
“I feel bad though, because Mordechai Malka was not really a bad guy. He was just forced to do what he did by the Weingartens, Nachman Helbrans, and Mayer Rosner. They made him do the crimes he did. He’s naturally a nice guy, based on my experience with him in Lev Tahor.”
Lev Tahor survivor Mendy Levy
Department of Justice Press Release:
Detailed written reports and analysis from the Malka trial
Documentaries related to the above story