Jewish World Review
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) When agents with guns swooped down on Nona Cason's life, she lost her kids and her freedom.
Law officers believed the Sunrise, Fla., mother of two was a French fugitive.
She was jailed for six nights. Her children were put into state custody. In U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow's Fort Lauderdale courtroom, a complete stranger swore that she was his runaway ex-wife.
In what appears to be a bizarre case of mistaken identity, French and U.S. authorities were convinced that Cason, 39, was Nadine Tretiakoff, a Frenchwoman charged with kidnapping her own two kids from ex-husband Pierre Fourcade.
"Apparently, I look like this other woman," Cason said.
Finally, the U.S. attorney's office dismissed charges after DNA tests showed that the kids weren't related by blood to Pierre Fourcade. The kids were reunited with their mom, who had spent six nights behind bars.
"When we got the information concerning the paternity tests, we immediately secured her release," said U.S. attorney spokesman Matthew Dates.
Recounting the arrest sends Cason into tears.
"They were pointing guns at me," she said.
Larry Burns, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal for Southern Florida, declined to comment. Hugh Graf, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff's Office, said it's not BSO's case, although he added, "it's certainly possible that we assisted the U.S. Marshal's office."
How Cason was pegged as a Tretiakoff in disguise is not clear.
Marc A. Shelowitz, one of Cason's attorneys, theorizes that someone in Georgia, where Cason lived until March, reported the Macon mother to authorities after watching an America's Most Wanted-like program, although no one can recall such a program being aired.
Another possibility: the tipster caught a glimpse of the Web site of Interpol, the international police agency (http://www.interpol.int). On the Web site are photos of the children, missing since Aug. 11, 1997, according to the agency.
Shelowitz believes FBI agents were monitoring Cason and her kids for at least a year.
Joe Parris, a special agent in FBI's Atlanta field office, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Interpol.
Also unclear is what efforts the United States and France made to confirm Cason's identity.
"She has everything you could possibly have to prove she was not this person," Shelowitz said, detailing job records, birth certificates and passports.
Suggestions abound on why authorities might tend to be suspicious of Cason.
"We could see the resemblance" between Cason and the missing mother, said Kathleen Ruckman, supervising attorney in the international division of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The nonprofit agency in Alexandria, Va., assists Interpol on international kidnapping cases by agreement with the Department of State. The agency had a photo of Tretiakoff but wouldn't share it with The Herald.
Cason's children are Charles Bordallo, 11, and Silvia Bordallo, 9. Tretiakoff, wherever she is, is the mother of Francois and Clara Fourcade, who would be 12 and 10 respectively.
Ruckman noted that Cason "looked like a foreign person."
She also heard that the kids weren't going to school and that the family had moved suddenly.
Cason said she pulled her children out of private school in March and moved to Florida in order to get medical treatment for her children, one of whom is autistic. Both children receive "hyberbaric treatments" - a nontraditional therapy that involves putting the patient in an oxygen chamber. She now home-schools her kids.
Said her lawyer, Shelowitz, "Maybe it was strange to (the authorities), but she was just leading her life."
That life turned to the surreal the morning of May 16, while she drove her kids to a hyberbaric appointment.
As she drove west on Commercial Boulevard, she noticed that traffic was stopped. She spotted five or six officers running through traffic.
She thought "Oh my goodness, they are going to arrest someone."
The shock of what came next left her numb. Her kids were driven off in another marked vehicle by agents.
She was taken to the Miami Federal Detention Center, where she was strip-searched.
Adding to the injury, Cason said that everybody - from jail guards to court officials - insisted on calling her "Nadine."
Cason said her background is in teaching, and for nine years she worked as a claims adjuster for a car insurance company. Currently, she is self-employed.
Pierre Fourcade arrived in Miami the day after Cason's arrest - this, after U.S. officials told him that his kids had been found, said his lawyer, Tim Arcaro.
Fourcade could not be reached for comment.
In a Fort Lauderdale courtroom hearing on May 19, Fourcade swore that Cason was the mother of his two children.
"I had never seen this man before in my whole life," she said.
Snow, the magistrate, asked Fourcade repeatedly if he was certain of his identification.
He said he was.
"All right, I'm satisfied," Snow said.
Cason remained in shackles.
Outside the courtroom, Fourcade identified Cason's children as his own.
Arcaro said Fourcade's identification of Cason and her kids must be considered in context.
"The information he was receiving was that these were the individuals," Arcaro said. "He was contacted in France by U.S. officials after not seeing his family for six years."
Before the children could be handed over to Fourcade, genetic tests had to be conducted. The cheeks of Charles and Silvia were swabbed for DNA and a blood sample was taken from Fourcade, Shelowitz said.
DNA aside, Ruckman said she still has her suspicions.
She said Tretiakoff could have been unfaithful during their marriage, resulting in the children having DNA that didn't match the husband.
Added Arcaro, the lawyer: "When you think about it - the length people will go to disguise themselves with plastic surgery ... " he said.
The DNA evidence was good enough for authorities, however, and Cason was released. On June 5, she drove her SUV to BSO's Plantation office to pick up her kids.
Fourcade returned to France.
And the hunt for Nadine Tretiakoff and her two children continues.
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