By Ivan Pereira
Despite being featured in a TV movie about her dangerous ordeal to rescue her kidnapped son from Asia, Queens teacher Tiffany Rubin said she does not consider herself extraordinary.
Rubin paid a visit to the 113th Precinct’s community council meeting March 21 to share her story and give parents tips on how to protect their children from a similar scenario.
The single mother said she does not regret going all the way to South Korea and taking her 7-year-old son Kobe out of his elementary school in a disguise and bring him back to the United States after his father took the boy away from her and fled the country.
“I wanted to do everything in my power to get him back,” she said.
Rubin and her former boyfriend, Jeffrey Salko, parted ways after their son was born in 2000 and the two shared custody of him.
In the summer of 2007, she dropped Kobe off at Salko’s home for a visit and never saw the two for days. The mother went to the police and FBI, who both put out a warrant for Salko, a South Korean native, but the authorities could not find any traces of him or Kobe.
Rubin, who teaches elementary school students in Long Island City, found out their whereabouts through some detective work at home.
“I basically figured out his password for [his] Yahoo! e-mail account and found he had flown to Korea,” she said.
For the next couple of months, Rubin and the nonprofit American Association for Lost Children tried to find ways to bring her son back to the United States.
Unlike the family law courts in America, Korean courts tend to favor the father in custody disputes, according to Rubin.
The mother said she could not take no for an answer. So with the help of the nonprofit and a former U.S. Marine, she went to Asia in March 2008 and entered Kobe’s school with makeup to lighten her skin and a baseball cap.
After calling out the boy’s name, Rubin took Kobe out of his school, disguised him with a wig and headed to the U.S. Embassy before Salko alerted the authorities that she had taken the boy.
The father was eventually arrested on his warrant later that year, when he tried to come to the United States to see the boy,ï»¿ and served nearly two years in prison.
He is barred from seeing the boy until he turns 8.
Community members cheered Rubin for her determination, but she said she did not consider her actions heroic.
“I’m a school teacher. There’s nothing special about me. I’m just a mom,” she said.
Rubin said she was more surprised when the American Association for Lost Children told her that the Lifetime cable network was interested in making a TV movie about her story.
She said she approved the making of “Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story,” which aired on the channel in January, because it would inspire other victimized parents.
“I ï»¿said it can’t hurt,” she said of the movie.
Rubin also gave some advice to single parents who fear their kids ï»¿could be taken by an erratic spouse.
The U.S. State Department has a program where children are not allowed to travel outside the country without both parents present.
Rubin said her estranged boyfriend was able to get the boy to Korea by forging her signature on a passport application.
“I made sure my son did not have a passport. Clearly this was not enough,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.