Mother accuses State Dept. of hindering rescue of teen
By Evan Moore
A mother whose kidnapped son was found recently in Argentina has said the U.S. Embassy in that country and the State Department here have been withholding information, giving her inaccurate information and, finally, refusing to tell her where the teen-ager is.
The son, Shaqued Pickus, 17, was kidnapped along with his younger brother, Christopher, in Honolulu by the boys' father and members of the Children of God in 1980. The mother, a former member of the group, had left the cult with the couple's four children two years earlier.
Last month, police in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, arrested Shaqued's father, Brian Pickus, and several other adult members of the cult on drug charges and charges of child abuse and picked up a number of children, including Shaqued.
The father said the younger brother ran away from the group two years ago and has not been seen since. The cult relies on prostitution of its female members for funds and advocates incest with children and child pornography.
The father is being held for extradition to the United States on charges stemming from the kidnapping, and embassy spokesmen in Buenos Aires first said the son was being held by the Argentinian equivalent of child protective services.
"But they've now, finally, told me he was turned over to some "American" family at his father's request," said the boy's mother, Candy, who has avoided using her last name in public for fear of the cult . The mother has custody of the boy in this country, but that is not binding in Argentina.
She said she had been told the embassy would arrange a phone conversation between her and her son, but learned Friday that that was impossible because embassy workers do not know where he is.
"They kept telling me they were having trouble getting the number," she said. "Finally, (Friday) the State Department told me they couldn't get it because my ex-husband wouldn't give it to them.
"They admitted they don't even know where Shaqued is, and if he's been turned back over to that group, he's probably not in Argentina.
"They don't seem to realize what this group is like or what they're capable of. This is probably the only chance I'll ever have to get my son back, and they're ruining it for me."
The cult has branches in at least 80 countries throughout the world.
The mother said she has requested information about what legal steps she would have to take to have her son returned, the length of time required, and what, if any, information is available on the younger brother.
Thursday, she said, Tom Halliday, director of the embassy in Argentina, refused her any information about her son's status and hung up on her.
"I need help. I need support. I need answers to questions NOW," she wrote in a letter to the State Department Friday. "If you continue your present lack of interest, I will have lost the last opportunity I will ever have to see my children again."
Earlier, Halliday cited "privacy act" infringements and refused to answer questions from the media. The State Department, in turn, referred all questions to its public information office and then refused to give information on the same grounds.