Mel Reynolds, a former congressman from Illinois, was arrested in Zimbabwe after he was accused of immigration violations and allegedly found in possession of pornography, state media reported Tuesday.
Reynolds, who resigned from Congress when he was convicted of sex crimes nearly 20 years ago, was taken into custody Monday at a hotel in Harare, the capital, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.
Zimbabwean immigration officials confirmed the arrest to international news agencies, saying the former Democratic representative was in the country on an expired visa, but did not provide further details.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports of the detention of an American citizen in Harare but could not comment because of privacy considerations.
"The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular services," it said in an emailed statement.
The Herald said Reynolds was accused of making pornographic videos and photographs of models and other women he brought to his room. At least one staff member from the paper arrived at the scene as he was being led away.
Possession of pornography is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Reynolds was also said to have accumulated bills of more than $24,500 at two local hotels, the paper said.
Reynolds reportedly complained that he did not expect such treatment when he had brought investors to Zimbabwe.
"I have been in this country 17 times, where I have done a lot of work for the people, including the fight against sanctions," the Herald quoted him as saying.
The United States maintains sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and senior members of his ZANU-PF party.
Reynolds lost his congressional seat in 1995 after being convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker. He also spent time in prison on unrelated fraud charges, but his sentence was commuted by President Clinton in 2001.
He made an unsuccessful bid to return to Congress a year ago, his second attempt at a political comeback under a campaign slogan of "redemption."