An American man allegedly wanted for child sex crimes in the U.S. was arrested in Phnom Penh on Thursday after being caught without a passport, an immigration official said on Friday.
Eric David Erdmann, 44, was arrested at his rented home in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang I commune on Thursday afternoon, said Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.
“On Thursday afternoon at about 3 p.m., our immigration police arrested a man from the U.S. who didn’t have a passport,” he said. “We found out about a month ago when he didn’t go to extend his visa.”
Under questioning at the immigration department’s headquarters following his arrest, Mr. Erdmann told investigators he did not have a passport because the U.S. Embassy had refused to issue him a new one when his old one expired, according to Major General Heisela.
“He said…the U.S Embassy didn’t extend his passport and that U.S authorities were looking for him because he committed a crime [in the U.S.] but we do not know what he did,” he said. “I only heard — from person to person — that he was involved in pedophilia in the state of Oregon in the U.S.”
Maj. Gen. Seila said Mr. Erdmann moved to Cambodia about five years and would likely be deported next week.
According to court records, a man named Eric Erdmann, of the same age, was charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse in Oregon’s Multnomah County in 2010.
A Facebook profile under the name Eric Erdmann — confirmed by Maj. Gen. Heisela to be same Mr. Erdmann who was arrested — says he teaches at Phnom Penh’s Pannasastra University.
Photographs posted to the page show him humping a lion sculpture at the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province and later fondling the stone breasts of an Apsara bas-relief, all while wearing camouflage fatigues. His cover photo includes an image of a large-caliber rifle with a silencer and high-powered scope alongside the words “Don’t Tread on Me,” an American Revolution-era motta adopted by various right-wing groups.
Contacted via the Facebook page on Friday, Mr. Erdmann said he had been arrested for overstaying his visa and had a criminal record in the U.S. — for theft — but denied that he was wanted for child sex crimes.
He said he was no longer in police custody.
“I am no longer at immigration dept. That news article is a bunch of f — ing lies,” he said, referring to a Khmer-language article about his arrest.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman confirmed that a U.S. citizen was arrested on Thursday, but declined to give further details.
“We are aware of reports of the arrest of an American citizen in Phnom Penh yesterday but due to privacy reasons we can’t provide any additional information,” he said.
Khoem Vando, deputy director of field operations for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said that he was aware of an arrest, but knew little else about the case.
“I know that the immigration police arrested him, and I heard that he was involved in abusing children in the U.S.,” he said.