Group likely mistaken for drug smugglers, US official says

Live updates: Americans kidnapped in Mexico

This trip was the second time Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, a mother of six children, had gone to Mexico for a medical procedure, her mother Barbara Burgess said. About two to three years ago, Burgess said her daughter traveled to the country for a surgery.

Receipts found in the group’s vehicle indicated the Americans were in Mexico for medical procedures, a US official with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that the group had crossed the border to “buy medicines” and assured the “whole government” was working to resolve the case.

Mexico has become a particularly popular destination for “medical tourism,” attracting travelers who may be seeking cheaper alternatives or medical treatments that are unapproved or unavailable in the US. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  warns the growing trend can carry dangerous risks depending on the destination and facility, including infection and possible post-procedure complications.

Washington McGee drove to Mexico with Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and their friend Eric Williams for the procedure, but she never made it to her doctor’s appointment on Friday, Burgess told CNN.

The group of missing Americans grew up together in South Carolina and were bonded “like glue,” Brown’s sister Zalandria Brown told CNN. She added that she and her brother are also close.

“Zindell is like my shadow, he’s like my son, he’s like my hip bone. We’re just tight like that,” she said.

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