An elderly American man has been released from a Mexican jail more than two months after the grandson he was traveling with was arrested on child pornography charges, a family member said.
Edward Chrisman, 88, and his grandson had traveled to Algodones, Mexico, for discount dental care, as a part of a growing trend known as medical tourism. Algodones is just across the border from Yuma, Arizona. The grandson, 40-year-old Gary Chrisman Jr., remains in a Mexicali jail awaiting trial, according to his cousin, Tracy Short. Authorities accuse him of offering a woman money to take nude photos of her teenage daughters. Child pornography charges can carry a penalty of up to 12 years in prison, according to officials from the Consulate General Tijuana. In early January, the Chrismans stopped at a convenience store in Mexico and Gary Chrisman went inside to purchase soft drinks. Edward Chrisman waited in the car, Short said. The younger Chrisman had been taking pictures of the area that day and, while in the store, approached a woman about snapping some shots of her teenage daughters. He offered to pay them $25, they agreed, and he took a few pictures of the girls’ faces. It was at that point, the family says, that the girls’ mother demanded more money from Chrisman and called local authorities alleging that Chrisman had tried taking pornographic pictures of her daughters, after he refused to ante up. Both men were taken into custody at the time, but the police report does not say why the elder Chrisman was arrested. The Chrisman family says the men were set up as a ploy for money. Since early January, the family says, they have paid thousands of dollars to at least three attorneys for legal representation and have reached out to numerous officials and politicians in Mexico and the United States for help. Edward Chrisman, who lives in Arlington, Washington, but was wintering with his grandson in Yuma, Arizona, was released from jail on Saturday and crossed the border back into the United States the same day. The family says his health had been steadily deteriorating while he was behind bars. Traveling abroad for health care is a phenomenon known as medical tourism. Many do it to save money or to get medical care not approved in the United States. Internationally recognized hospitals in Thailand and Singapore can often perform orthopedic and heart procedures at a fraction of the cost. Mexico is a popular choice for dental care. The estimated number of Americans seeking treatment overseas annually varies widely, but starts at a half-million people.