An American man who was arrested on Thursday after allegedly violating a court order related to a child sex crime case in the U.S. said on Sunday at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital—where police are allowing him to receive treatment for an injured leg until his deportation—that the allegations were false.
Uk Heisela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said on Sunday that Eric Erdmann, 43, had been arrested based on information provided by the U.S. government, which Major General Heisela said had barred the suspect from leaving his home country.
“The U.S. authorities banned him from leaving the country over the charge of pedophilia,” Maj. Gen. Heisela said. “He was arrested in 2009 [in the U.S.] after he came back from Thailand and was convicted and banned from leaving the country.”
“But he broke the law by leaving the country and moved to Cambodia in 2011, and he continued to live here by renewing his visas until his passport expired,” he said, adding that the sex abuse case had been heard by a court in Oregon.
“After we received information that the U.S. Embassy had refused to renew his passport and that his visa had expired, we sent immigration police to arrest him.”
According to court records available online, a man named Eric Erdmann was charged with multiple counts of child sex crimes in Oregon’s Multnomah County in 2010.
Maj. Gen. Heisela said Mr. Erdmann had been permitted to receive treatment for his leg, which was severely injured in a traffic accident earlier this year but that two officers were posted at the hospital to ensure he did not flee the premises before his scheduled deportation on Wednesday.
“The doctors said he needed treatment so we decided to keep him at the hospital,” he said. “The U.S. Embassy officials came to meet us on Friday at about 10 a.m. The embassy will pay for his travel back, and [Mr. Erdmann] also agreed to be deported to his own country.”
Sitting in a wheelchair in the courtyard of Calmette Hospital on Sunday, Mr. Erdmann said he had been treated well by immigration police, but that everything they were saying was wrong.
He said he had never been charged or convicted of any sex-related crimes or crimes involving the abuse of children and had never been charged with a crime in Oregon.
He said the claims that he had been barred from leaving the U.S. were baseless and questioned why he was not arrested at the U.S. Embassy when he went there earlier this month to renew his passport.
“If I’m banned from leaving the country, how did I leave the country? This is post-9/11: You ain’t leaving the country if they’re banning you—that’s a bunch of bullshit,” he said.
“I was just in the embassy two weeks ago. If they were gonna arrest me, why didn’t they arrest me there? It didn’t happen. I went and I talked to them, and I left.”
The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the case, citing confidentiality rules.
Mr. Erdmann said his previous run-ins with the law included old cases of theft in the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Illinois, and now what he believed was an arrest for overstaying his visa in Cambodia.
“It would be one thing to say I am arrested for passport and visa overstay,” he said of local media reports stating that he was arrested for being a suspected child abuser.
“But to sit there and make these accusations that I’m some freakin’ pedophile wanted on freaking sex crimes, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Mr. Erdmann added that he did not know why police might be giving false reports to the media and said that much of what he knew about the situation had come from users of the online community Khmer440.
“I guess,” he said, when asked if he believed his arrest was a case of mistaken identity. “I mean, that’s what everybody’s saying. It seems like people on Khmer440 know more than I do. They are pulling out all this information I have no idea about.”
Mr. Erdmann confirmed that he had been using the handle “sniper_m4” to take part in online conversations on Khmer440.com. In a post on a comment thread about his arrest, he shared a link to a photograph of himself sitting in an open-air area with a meal in front of him and holding up a sign with Saturday’s date.
“How do you upload photos on here? Ill prove im not being jailed or detained,” he wrote in one post.
“I took photo showing today’s date eating breakfast waiting for my doctor appointment across the street,” he wrote in the next.
Mr. Erdmann said on Sunday that he believed immigration police had released him when he checked into Calmette, and pointed out that no uniformed police officers were within view.
“I’m sitting here by myself. All I can tell you is they let me go,” he said, adding that he was booking his own plane ticket to Florida.
“As in being deported, I don’t know about that. I bought my own plane ticket. It’s been booked—I haven’t paid for it yet but it leaves on Wednesday, and I’m flying to Florida,” he said.
“What you have to understand here—that’s why I can’t really say much—is I’m being lied to by multiple fronts, and I don’t know who’s telling the truth about what.”
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