King: 'Close to' all 11 agents had women, presumed to be prostitutes, in rooms

Apr 14, 2012

New York Post -- POST WIRE SERVICES

CARTAGENA, Colombia — A U.S. lawmaker says a "significant number" of Secret Service agents involved in an alleged prostitution scandal at an international summit brought women back to their hotel rooms before President Barack Obama arrived in Colombia.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, who was briefed Saturday on the investigation, tells The Associated Press that "close to" all 11 of the agents involved had women in the rooms at their hotel, which was separate from the one where Obama is now staying.

The New York Republican says the women were "presumed to be prostitutes," but investigators are interviewing the agents. King heads the House Homeland Security Committee.

The AP had earlier confirmed that agents had been sent home because of misconduct involving prostitutes.

CNN reported the scandal erupted after one of the agents stiffed one of the hookers.

"One of the agents did not pay one of the prostitutes, and she complained to the police," Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter and author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect" told the network.
The Washington Post, which was the first to report the story, said Kessler alerted them to the situation.

Kessler told the Washington Post that while soliciting prostitutes is legal in Colombia within designated "tolerance zones," it's considered inappropriate by the Secret Service. Several of the agents involved are married, Kessler also told the DC paper.

CNN reported Saturday that, according to two government sources, several prostitutes were brought back to Cartagena's Hotel Caribe by the Secret Service members, who were staying at the hotel that's now home to President Obama, other White House staffers and members of the press corps.

One of the prostitutes did have a dispute with the agents over payment, CNN confirmed.

A senior law enforcement official told Fox News the dispute started when employees at the hotel witnessed apparent inappropriate behavior by at least one of the Secret Service agents.

According to the official, a hotel employee confronted at least one agent to demand he pay extra money for having an overnight "guest" in his room -- allegedly a prostitute. The agent balked, which touched off the confrontation that forced diplomatic intervention.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan would not confirm that prostitution was involved, saying only that there had been "allegations of misconduct" made against Secret Service personnel in Cartagena for the summit.

The Washington Post reported that Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the accusations related to at least one agent having involvement with prostitutes in Cartagena. The association represents federal law enforcement officers, including the Secret Service.

Adler later told the AP that he had heard that there were allegations of prostitution, but he had no specific knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Donovan said the allegations of misconduct were related to activity before the president's arrival Friday night and did not impact security plans for Obama's trip.

A hotel employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said the agents arrived at the beachfront hotel about a week ago. The employee described the agents as drinking heavily during their stay.

The employee said the agents left the hotel Thursday, a day before Obama and other regional leaders arrived for the weekend summit.

The hotel's public relations chief had no comment.

Those involved had been sent back to their permanent place of duty and were being replaced by other agency personnel, Donovan said. The matter was turned over to the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles the agency's internal affairs.

"There have been allegations of misconduct made against the Secret Service in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the president's trip," Donovan said in a statement.

"Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty, and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel. The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously."

A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity, put the number of agents sent home at 12. Secret Service was not releasing the number of personnel involved.

CNN reported Sunday that the number of Secret Service members is "in the ballpark" of 12, according to two government sources, but they're not all agents. The individuals involved are a mix of agents and Secret Service police, but they're not part of President Obama's security detail. Instead, they're part of the broader security team.

Kessler told CNN that all 12 Secret Service members are accused of involvement in the incident "in one degree or another," from allegedly interfering in the investigation to participating in other alleged misconduct. Kessler also called the situation "clearly the biggest scandal in Secret Service history."

Adler told the Washington Post that the entire Secret Service unit was recalled for the purposes of the investigation.

Fox News reported the situation was so serious diplomats were brought in to mediate and the agency was forced to rush in a new group of agents ahead of the president's arrival.

The incident threatened to overshadow Obama's economic and trade agenda at the summit and embarrass the U.S. The White House had no comment, but also did not dispute the allegations. Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have both been briefed on the situation, and a White House briefing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, according to CNN.

With Post Staff, AP and NewsCore