Secret Service agents busted because they refused to pay hooker: source -- Scandal was revealed Friday before President Obama arrived in Colombia for Summit of the Americas

Apr 14, 2012

New York Daily News -- by Alison Gendar AND Jonathan Lemire

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Most of the Secret Service agents embroiled in a prostitution scandal brought women back to their Colombia hotel rooms before President Obama arrived in town for an international summit, Rep. Pete King said Saturday.

King said the raunchy rendezvous involved 11 agents and went sour when an agent refused to pay one of the women, who were presumed to be hookers.

“The agent said, ‘I don't owe you anything,’ but gave the woman some money,” said King (R-L.I.),the head of the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on the matter. “I don't know how much, and it was settled right there.”

As it turned out, the agents’ troubles were just beginning. Local cops were called to the hotel in Cartagena and, because the matter involved foreigners, a report was written up and sent to the U.S. Embassy, King said.

Embassy officials in turn notified the Secret Service, which immediately launched an investigation.

At least one supervisor was among the agents involved, King said. He was not certain exactly how many women were involved.

The scandal — a black eye for the United States’ reputation abroad — was revealed Friday just hours before President Obama arrived in Cartagena.

The 11 agents were part of an advance team assigned to secure a local hotel before the summit began, yet their attention apparently turned to taking advantage of Colombia’s policy of legal prostitution.

Five American service members were also accused of misconduct stemming from the scandalous incident at the hotel, according to the U.S. military.

“They had arranged to have a bunch of prostitutes come by and one of the agents refused to pay a prostitute,” said author Ronald Kessler, one of the leading experts on the Secret Service. “Yes, doubly good judgment there.”

Kessler, who was briefed on the investigation by his sources within the agency, told the Daily News Saturday that the spurned hooker told police about the lack of payment.

The 11 agents were immediately recalled to Washington.

“Their careers are over,” said Kessler.

“Number one, it is against basic ethics to go to a prostitute,” he continued. “Number two, it is incredibly embarrassing to the White House.”

“And number three,” he continued. “It could leave them open to blackmail and a possible assassination attempt.”

Obama still has “full confidence” in the Secret Service, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, who declared late Saturday that the incident “has been more of a distraction for the press” than the President.

Kessler said two of the agents were supervisors who attempted to cover up the mortifying incident.

The agents were staying at the beachfront Hotel Caribe, which is also hosting the White House staff and the traveling press team.

Guests at the swanky hotel told reporters that several of the agents had been spotted drinking heavily during their weeklong stay.

Details of the incident remain murky, but U.S. officials believe one agent took a woman back to his room Wednesday night and threw her out in a dispute over money.

The woman caused a commotion in the hallway, getting the attention of local cops and other Secret Service agents, a senior official told The New York Times.

Though it was not known if all 11 members of the Secret Service team are suspected of wrongdoing, they were all recalled as part of the investigation. Several of the agents are married, according to reports.

Prostitution is legal in Colombia, as long as it is conducted in so-called “tolerance zones.”

Though the exact boundaries of the zones frequently change and are rarely enforced by police, the coastal city of Cartagena is a popular destination for prostitution and sex tourism.

Hookers can easily be procured online or in bars or hotels in much of the city. It was not clear how the agents met the women involved in the incident.

The scandal threatened to overshadow President Obama’s visit to the important summit. He landed in Cartagena Friday night and attended a formal dinner with the other world leaders at Castillo San Felipe de Barajasajas, an historic Spanish fortress.

The President, who had a full day of summit events Saturday, has not addressed the Secret Service scandal. He is not staying at the Hotel Caribe.

The Secret Service did not elaborate on the allegations Saturday. The night before, the agency — which is charged with protecting the President — simply confirmed that the officers were pulled back to Washington.

All of the agents are based in Washington, D.C., according to Kessler, author of “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.”

The matter was turned over to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles the Secret Services’ internal affairs.