Melbourne Florida Police Officer Jose Otero, Charged After On-Duty Sex With Whores In His Patrol Car Will Soon Learn If He Loses His Law Enforcement Job

July 21, 2012

MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – A Melbourne police officer charged with having on-duty sexual trysts with at least three suspected prostitutes in his patrol car could soon learn whether he can keep his law enforcement job, officials report.

Officer Jose Otero, 42, was charged last month with five misdemeanor counts of purchasing the services of a person engaged in prostitution, and one count each of setting up and maintaining a place for lewdness or prostitution and solicitation of prostitution, court records show.

A pre-termination hearing on Otero’s employment with the Melbourne Police was held late Monday. No decisions have been made.

“He still is suspended with pay and the chief has not yet made a decision,” said Sgt. Sheridan Shelly, spokesman for the Melbourne Police Department, whose agency has taken on a high-profile, proactive role in recent years to try to rid city streets of prostitution.

Melbourne police administrators ordered the officer to turn in his badge, gun and police radio May 26 following findings from their initial investigation.

The case — including possible surveillance video and investigative notes on the reported encounters — was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The state agency issued Otera, who was never physically arrested or jailed, a notice to appear citation in early July.

Michael Bross, Otero’s attorney, said his client is innocent and adds that he did not have any sexual contact with the suspected prostitutes.

“There are no photos, no videos. It is an allegation. I’ve had the chance to talk to all three prostitutes and these allegations are spurious,” said Bross. “My client knows a lot of suspects and people on the road.” Bross said he believes the women may have crafted the stories to get a better outcome on their own cases.

Otero, hired in March 2008, did not attend the pre-termination hearing. His attorney did. Melbourne police would not comment on the specifics of the case.

“The chief had his meeting and is now taking everything into consideration,” Shelly said.

Melbourne police were tipped off to the allegations of wrongdoing involving Otero earlier this year and carried out surveillance of the officer.

Melbourne officers allege Otero used his patrol car for at least a year to pick up suspected prostitutes and then drive them to a secluded area in the 1000 block of South Harbor City Boulevard near the House of Lights and Home Accents store, which is not far from the police department’s substation on Apollo Boulevard, according to records.

Officers said that Otero, whose salary is $37,000 a year, repeatedly paid the suspected prostitutes for sexual acts while sitting in the marked Melbourne police cruiser, according to police records.

Police reported that Otero would then drive the suspected prostitutes to an unknown destination.

Otero could not be reached for comment.

“He’s doing fine,” Bross said. “My client has a right to resign, but he hasn’t. He chose not to because he’s not guilty.”

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Veteran Kansas City Missouri Police Officer Jeffrey Holmes Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Swapping Sex For Women’s Freedom

July 4, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – A police officer from Kansas City has been charged with corruption after being accused of having sex with two women so that he would not arrest them, according to prosecutors. One of the women involved told officers that she was working as a prostitute when she met the officer in question. The second woman involved said she had outstanding warrants and was in possession of marijuana when she met the officer,

Jeffrey Holmes. Holmes, who is 47, accepted sex from the women in exchange for not arresting them during incidents that occurred in March and April. Holmes was released on $75,000 bond Tuesday and a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf during the arraignment.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, Lisa Pelofsky, said that Holmes has been suspended without pay and he has worked for the department for 13 years.

“Police obviously are not in any way intimidated or afraid to follow up on these kinds of charges and pursue them,” Pelofsky said.

A probable cause statement filed by officers said that a woman told officers she was working as a prostitute on March 24 in a motel in Kansas City. She said a man called and said he wanted to meet her. The man on the phone was identified as Holmes, who arrived at the motel wearing a police uniform and a gun. The statement said that Holmes informed the woman she was ‘busted for prostitution’ and ordered to place her arms behind her back. The woman did not do so because she thought something was wrong. She noticed that Holmes did not have a radio on his person. Holmes then told the woman he wanted her to become a ‘snitch’ and began to ‘rub and hug’ her.

The woman claims she had sex with Holmes ‘because she wanted him to leave.’ Three weeks after the incident she reported it as rape and identified Holmes as the attacker after she saw him in a police parking lot on April 26. The phone records of Holmes show that he called the woman prior to and after the incident.

The second woman said she was at a different motel when she approached by Holmes in uniform and asked her if she was a prostitute. She told Holmes no but said he needed to see her room anyway. When they arrived at the room Holmes said they were going to have sex. When the woman asked why, Holmes said, “You don’t want to go to jail, do you?” The woman told officers she had marijuana in the room and outstanding warrants and feared she would be arrested if she did not have sex with Holmes. The woman took a photo of Holmes’ used condom and sent it to her roommate with the caption of ‘Cop DNA.’ Holmes returned to the room, flushed the condom and made the woman delete the text but not the photo from the phone. The photo was entered into the investigation by police.

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Broward County Florida Deputy Sheriff Christian Benenati Arrested, Suspended, And Charged In Prostitution Sting

June 17, 2012

POMPANO BEACH, FLORIDA – What are the chances that a Broward County sheriff’s deputy would be charged with propositioning an undercover colleague for sex during a prostitution sting?

That’s what officials say happened during a countywide crime sweep Wednesday to Christian Benenati, 40, a deputy with a decade’s experience with the agency.

Benenati was off-duty that afternoon, Broward sheriff’s spokesman Jim Leljedal said.

The deputy, who works in BSO’s department of law enforcement, was charged with soliciting another person for lewdness, a misdemeanor offense.

Broward sheriff’s deputies have been busted on similar charges before.

“In the history of the Broward Sheriff’s Office? Unfortunately, this is not the first,” Leljedal said. “But it is exceedingly rare.”

Benenati offered the female undercover officer — one of 1,541 BSO deputies sworn to uphold the law who was posing as a prostitute — $20 in exchange for oral sex, according to an arrest report.

The report describes the 4:38 p.m. incident at 1201 NW 31st Ave. in Pompano Beach, and says Benenati declined to accompany the deputy to a motel, proposing that their transaction happen in his gray Nissan Altima.

Internal Affairs is investigating the arrest and Benenati is suspended with pay, pending any charges filed against him by the State Attorney’s Office, Leljedal said.

The spokesman said he could not discuss specifics about the case, including why Benenati was detained in Pompano Beach and arrested four hours later in Coral Springs at 1000 N. University Drive, which is the address of a sports bar.

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Additional Secret Service Agent Misconduct Surfaces In Prostitution Scandal Investigation

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid an ongoing investigation into a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service members, new details have emerged about additional sexual misconduct allegations that have been leveled at Secret Service agents over the last five years.

In a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security hearing investigating the scandal, which rocked the agency in April after a dozen secret service officers were implicated for hiring prostitutes in Colombia, Senator Joe Lieberman, the chair of the committee, noted 64 additional allegations of misconduct over the last five years – including one complaint of non-consensual sex.

Lieberman said that most of the complaints “involved sending sexually explicit emails or sexually explicit material on a government computer,” but that three of the complaints involved charges of a relationship with a foreign national, “and one was a complaint of non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

Mark Sullivan, the head of the Secret Service, testified that the allegation of non-consensual sex had been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement, which ultimately decided not to go forward with charges. The other three incidents, he said, involved contact with foreign nationals and that all of the incidents “were investigated and the appropriate administrative action was taken on all three.” According to Sullivan, none of those three incidents involved prostitution.

Sullivan also discussed an incident in which an agent was “separated from the agency” after soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute in 2008.

In his opening remarks, Sullivan apologized for the Colombia incident and emphasized that what happened in Cartagena last month “is not representative of [the agency’s] values or of the high ethical standards we demand from our nearly 7,000 employees.”

“I am deeply disappointed and I apologize for the misconduct of these employees and the distraction it has caused,” he said.

Of primary concern among the committee members was the question of whether or not there may have been a “culture” within the Secret Service that tolerated the sort of behavior in which members engaged last month — particularly after the Washington Post reported Wednesday that several implicated agents charged that was the case.

“It is hard for many people, including me, to believe that on one night in April 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia, 11 secret service agents – there to protect the president – suddenly and spontaneously did something they or other agents had never done before,” Lieberman said in his testimony.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, also seemed skeptical that the incident in Colombia was a unique case.

“The facts so far lead me to conclude that, while not at all representative of the majority of Secret Service personnel, this misconduct was almost certainly not an isolated incident,” she said in her opening statement. “The numbers [of agents] involved, as well as the participation of two senior supervisors, lead me to believe that this was not a one-time event. Rather, and it suggests an issue of culture.”

Collins later pointed to the fact that the involved agents had engaged in similar behaviors independently of each other, as well as the fact that they disguised neither their own nor the prostitutes’ identities when signing into the hotel, as evidence that similar conduct may have been tolerated by the Secret Service in the past.

“Two of the participants were supervisors — one with 22 years of service and the other with 21 — and both were married. That surely sends a message to the rank and file that this kind of activity is tolerated on the road,” she said.

Throughout his testimony, Sullivan disputed that characterization and reiterated his belief that the incident in Colombia was not reflective of the agency as a whole.

“I do not think this is indicative,” he said. “I just think that between the alcohol and, I don’t know, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things. And I just can’t explain why.”

He also emphasized that President Obama’s security was never at risk because the agents had not yet been briefed on relevant security-related details.

“At the time the misconduct occurred, none of the individuals involved in the misconduct had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security-related equipment in their hotel rooms,” he said.

Lieberman reported that the investigation had revealed “troubling” incidents but said that so far it had failed to show “a pattern of misconduct” within the agency at large. He called on whistle blowers to come forward with any additional reports of untoward behavior.

“Our initial review of our Secret Service Agency’s disciplinary records for the last five years … show some individual cases of misconduct that are troubling but are not evidence yet of a pattern of misconduct,” Lieberman said. “These records do reveal 64 instances, again over 5 years in which allegations or complaints concerning sexual misconduct were made against employees of the Secret Service.”

According to acting Inspector General Charles Edwards, who is conducting a three-part independent review of the Secret Service investigation, conclusions from the first phase of the review will be made public in July.

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Four Secret Service Agents Fired In Columbian Hooker-Gate Scandal To Fight Dismissals

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Four Secret Service employees have decided to fight their dismissals for engaging in inappropriate conduct in Colombia last month, a development that could unravel what has been a swift and tidy resolution to an embarrassing scandal over agents’ hiring of prostitutes.

The agents are arguing that the agency is making them scapegoats for behavior that the Secret Service has long tolerated, a charge that Director Mark Sullivan may have to address when he appears before a Senate committee Wednesday. He has not spoken in public about the controversy, but according to his prepared testimony, he plans to tell Congress that there was no breach of operational security.

Several of the implicated agents have told associates that the facts of what happened in Cartagena differ from initial media accounts describing a group outing of a dozen men in search of prostitutes. Instead, the men went to different bars and clubs and met women under a variety of circumstances, in some cases resulting in voluntary trysts that did not involve money.

One 29-year-old field agent assigned to the Washington office, who is single and who resigned under the threat of being fired, told investigators in a polygraph examination that he did not think at the time that the two women he brought back to his hotel room were prostitutes. He is among those seeking to overturn their dismissals, according to three people familiar with his case.

The scandal has badly damaged the Secret Service’s reputation, and the fallout has spread to other federal agencies. A dozen members of the military also are accused of hiring prostitutes on the trip, and the Drug Enforcement Administration is looking into allegations, made by a Secret Service agent during the investigation, that DEA members had previously brought prostitutes to their apartments in Cartagena.

According to interviews with multiple former and current employees and people briefed on the inquiry, the Secret Service agents involved brought women to their hotel rooms without hesi­ta­tion. The agency says it was clear that employees should not do anything unbecoming of a Secret Service employee. Current and former agency employees say sexual encounters during official travel had been condoned under an unwritten code that allows what happens on the road to stay there.

They also contend that this tolerance is part of the “Secret Circus” — a mocking nickname that some employees use to describe what ensues when large numbers of agents and officers arrive in a city.

Shortly after landing in Cartagena at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11, the 55 or so Secret Service members had down time to explore the Caribbean resort. They were there to provide extra security for Obama’s visit for an international summit but had two days before the commander in chief arrived. In Cartagena, prostitution is legal in designated “tolerance zones.”

Secret Service supervisor David Chaney, 48, had spent two decades with the agency and was among the most senior on the plane. He headed out that night to a strip club called the Pley Club, with junior agents in tow, according to two people with knowledge of the events.

Colleagues describe Chaney as gregarious — quick with a joke and to rally for colleagues facing a crisis — and too eager to befriend his subordinates. Efforts to reach Chaney were unsuccessful. Larry Berger, Chaney’s attorney, declined to discuss the details of the case, but said his client put the mission first and never compromised the president’s security.

Chaney has been married for 20 years, but that night he and his colleagues paid the Pley Club a small fee to take at least two of the performers back to the Hotel Caribe, where they and other members of Obama’s advance team were staying, according to the two people familiar with what happened that night.

Separately, a pair of married Secret Service agents who worked together on the agency’s tight-knit, elite counter­assault team — Arthur Huntington and Joe Bongino — headed to the historic old city of Cartagena. They hit the Hard Rock Cafe, which had been recommended in the briefing guide prepared by the State Department, but it was dead. They moved down the street to Tu Candela, a popular bar and disco.

Although the service warns agents in training seminars that extramarital affairs could expose them to blackmail, some married agents are widely known to cheat on their wives. Associates said Huntington, 41, was one who acted differently on many of his trips than he did at home.

Efforts to reach Bongino and Huntington, who has since moved with his wife and two young sons out of their Severna Park home, were unsuccessful.

Huntington’s family has been active in Granite Baptist Church in Glen Burnie.

In Cartagena, while at Tu Candela that Wednesday night, Huntington asked Dania Suarez, a 24-year-old prostitute, to spend the night with him. She agreed in exchange for a “gift” of $800, she later told a television interviewer. Her girlfriend agreed to join Bongino for no charge, Suarez said. People briefed on the investigation corroborated this version of events.

A total of 12 agents were implicated in the activities of that night, after registering the women at the Hotel Caribe’s front desk in keeping with the hotel’s policy for non-paying overnight guests, according to multiple people briefed on the investigation.

Three of those implicated, including Bongino, were cleared of serious misconduct charges. In addition to the four who are challenging their dismissals, at least four others were forced out: Chaney, who immediately took early retirement; Huntington, who was pushed to resign; and two others, who were also dismissed. The fate of one agent is unknown.

One of those cleared is a single agent who speaks Spanish, and who picked up a local woman at the same bar and took her back to his hotel independent of his colleagues, according to two people briefed on the incident. He — along with Bongino and another colleague — kept their jobs after proving that they did not pay for sex. But both the Spanish-speaking agent and Bongino have been shifted off the elite counter­assault team, those briefed on the incident said.

One of those who resigned under pressure but now wants to reverse that move is the single 29-year-old from the Washington field office, who was out with a divorced co-worker from the same office that night. They asked their server at dinner to recommend a non-touristy place for drinks, according to three individuals briefed on the inquiry.

They were directed to a bar with an Egyptian theme, a deejay and a dance floor. Both men later took women from the bar back to their hotel. The divorced colleague has been cleared in the incident, insisting that he told his guest to leave when she asked for money, although he faces minor administrative action.

The 29-year-old agent has told investigators a similar story: that he took two women to his room without realizing they were prostitutes. He maintained, under a polygraph exam, that he told the women to leave when they asked for money for sex, according to associates familiar with his account. He has withdrawn his resignation.

The Washington Post is not naming three of the agents who are fighting their ousters because their cases have not been resolved. Agency supervisor Greg Stokes, another employee recommended for termination and now pushing back against his punishment, has been named in previous reports.

One of those contesting his treatment was not originally under suspicion. That agent took a woman to a different hotel on another night and later came forward voluntarily to inform his bosses that he, too, had a sexual encounter.

The ramifications for that agent have been severe: His pregnant wife threatened to move out, his colleagues said. Like his peers, he was pressured to resign. He hired an attorney to determine whether he can fight for his job.

The morning after the carousing, the party ended for all when Huntington refused to pay Suarez and, she said, pushed her out of his room into the seventh-floor hallway, setting off the dispute that would lead to the exposure of the misconduct.

What none of the agents realized was the extent to which the Secret Service already had irritated the hotel manager, even before the hallway disturbance. The manager, according to people familiar with the investigation, was infuriated by the noise the agents made at the hotel bar and the inconvenience they caused other guests.

Outside the Hotel Caribe, Secret Service officers had repeatedly allowed their bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois shepherds to defecate on the lone grassy patch along the hotel’s beachfront property — directly in front of the hotel manager’s apartment. The manager did not respond to e-mails and phone messages seeking comment.

After Colombian police alerted the U.S. Embassy, a Secret Service official dispatched to the hotel to investigate found the manager waiting with a clipboard full of complaints and quick to provide names.

On the afternoon of April 12, Paula Reid, the special agent in charge of Miami and South America, conducted initial interviews with the 12 men in Cartagena. Sullivan later ordered all 12 flown home the following morning, just hours before Obama arrived.

But their accounts varied — much more widely than initially reported. Agency investigators concluded that nine of the 12 men paid or solicited prostitutes, but the agents now disputing the findings insist that the punishment outweighs their crimes.

One of the implicated men has told associates that a senior security supervisor had advised agents to follow loose guidelines when spending time with women they met on the road: One-night stands were permitted, this supervisor explained, as long as the relationships were cut off when the agents left the country.

Now, the agency is underscoring off-duty conduct more clearly.

“You should always assume you are being watched when on an official assignment,” a director responsible for the counterassault team warned in a memo to staff members last week. “Do not put yourself in a situation in your personal or professional life that would cause embarrassment to you, your family, or the Secret Service.”

The agency’s rush to judgment came as a shock to the Spanish-speaker, who asked his overnight guest to write a note to his superiors that he thought would clear his name.

“I voluntarily spent the night,” this woman wrote, according to a document reviewed by The Post. “He only gave me $12 to pay for my taxi. . . . It was a pleasure meeting [him] and before saying goodbye I gave him my e-mail address hoping to see him again.”

Only one agent was completely cleared, after proving that someone else had improperly used his name to register a female guest.

Staff writers Carlos Lozada and Joe Davidson and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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Not Just The Secret Service: US DEA Agents Under Investigation For Hiring Hookers In Columbia

May 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena.

Two of the agents allegedly had encounters with masseuses in the apartment of one of the agents, according to Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“It’s disturbing that we may be uncovering a troubling culture that spans more than one law enforcement agency,” the Maine Republican said this evening. “In addition to the Secret Service scandal, we now learn that at least two DEA agents apparently entertained female foreign national masseuses in the Cartagena apartment of one of the agents. The evidence uncovered thus far indicates that this likely was not just a one-time incident.”

The revelations that Secret Service personnel had been drinking heavily and cavorting with prostitutes ahead of Obama’s trip to Colombia last month overshadowed the president’s trip to the Summit of the Americas. Twelve members of the military were also investgated for allegedly hiring prostitutes.

Eight of the 12 Secret Service employees implicated in the scandal lost their jobs, another is in the process of losing his security clearances, and three agents were cleared of serious misconduct but still could be disciplined. The military has completed its investigation but no disciplinary action has been carried out.

“The Drug Enforcement Administration was provided information from the Secret Service unrelated to the Cartagena hotel Secret Service incident, which DEA immediately followed up on, making DEA employees available to be interviewed by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General,” a DEA spokesperson said in a statement.

“DEA takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will take appropriate personnel action, if warranted, upon the conclusion of the OIG investigation.” the statement said.

A spokesman for the OIG said the DEA is cooperating in the investigation, which is being coordinated with the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

The DEA has agents posted in Colombia to work on counter-narcotic and drug interdiction missions with Colombian authorities. According to officials the agents were among those assigned in Colombia, they were not specifically working on the President’s trip.

The revelations about the DEA agents comes ahead of a hearing scheduled on Wednesday with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

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Salt Lake City Utah Police Officers In Now Disbanded Vice Unit Had Physical Contact With Prostitutes

May 15, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – The detective was on his back. The prostitute was above him.

“I kissed her breasts and nipples, as there was no place for my face to go,” the undercover detective wrote in his report of a 2011 vice sting.

The Salt Lake City Civilian Review Board said there was some place else for his face to go. The review board also said the hands of some Salt Lake City police officers went places they shouldn’t.

The board found problems with how city vice detectives investigate prostitution and sexual or illegal massages. The problems were one reason that Chief Chris Burbank disbanded the vice unit earlier this year and reassigned its detectives.

In an interview Friday, Burbank said crimes traditionally investigated by the vice unit, including prostitution, human trafficking and liquor law violations, are being handled by other units. Burbank said he is considering a new organizational structure to address those crimes.

“Not that we’re getting out of vice enforcement,” Burbank said. “We’re just re-evaluating what vice will look like.”

Burbank also confirmed that some vice detectives were disciplined over the problems that were found. The sergeant over the unit received a 60-hour suspension for failure to properly train and monitor his subordinates, Burbank said. Other detectives received written reprimands or orders to undergo training on proper procedures.

One of the procedural mistakes Salt Lake City police made: Detectives in at least three cases in 2011 violated the department’s “no touch policy.”

In another case, vice detectives were investigating a massage parlor on 4500 South — outside the boundaries of Salt Lake City. Once there, the board found, detectives violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the business and its employees by conducting an improper search.

The board also found vice detectives were not booking evidence into storage in a timely manner and cited the lieutenant in charge of the vice unit for failure to properly supervise his subordinates.
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The Civilian Review Board issued its findings last month. The board is composed of citizens from across Salt Lake City who field complaints from citizens and investigate them independently of the police department. The review board report emphasized the errors appeared to have been made honestly and there was no criminal or malicious intent.

As far as touching suspects, reports from the review board indicate part of the problem was that vice detectives didn’t know which policies they were operating under. Old policies said undercover detectives could engage in some touching of suspects if they reported it afterward to their supervisors.

In May 2011, the police department amended the policy to prohibit touching. Despite the seemingly clear language, some detectives who worked undercover to catch prostitutes and illegal masseuses were confused about whether a small amount of touching was allowed and how they were supposed to prove their case in court if there had been no physical contact with the suspects.

In the Dec. 2, 2011, case of the detective who kissed the prostitute’s breasts, he argued it was not a policy violation since he had no control over her placing her breasts in his face. The review board disagreed, saying the kissing was a voluntary act on the detective’s part. The board said the detective committed “conduct unbecoming.”

On the same day the detective’s face was in the prostitute’s breasts, an undercover detective violated department policy by touching a masseuse’s vagina while she was rubbing him, the board found. The masseuse later told the review board investigator she believes the detective sexually assaulted her.

Burbank said the detective was not prosecuted in court.

“It did not rise to criminal conduct,” Burbank said.

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