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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Prostitute At Center Of Secret Service Columbian Hooker-Gate Scandal Says Agents “…Were A Bunch Of Fools.”

May 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, acted after Dania Londono Suarez appeared on television to reveal her side of the story.

She said that it would have been easy for her to steal any of the documents or plans that President Barack Obama’s bodyguards had with them in a hotel room on a presidential trip to Cartagena, Columbia, last month.

Miss Suarez said: “They were a bunch of fools. They are responsible for Obama’s security and they still let this happen.

“I could have done a thousand other things. If I had wanted to, I could have gone through all his documents, his wallet, his suitcase.”

Miss Suarez told Caracol News in Cartegena that she called the police after the Secret Service agent with whom she spent the night refused to pay her the $800 (£500) he had promised.
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“Let’s go, bitch – I’m not going to pay you,” she said that he told her before throwing her out of the room in the early morning.

A Secret Service investigation into “misconduct” has resulted in nine of the 12 agents that made up the president’s advance security team to Cartegena losing their jobs. But Miss Suarez said that although she was at the heart of the scandal, she had not been interviewed by US investigators.

A visibly angry Congressman King said this weekend: “I have asked the Secret Service for an explanation of how they have failed to find this woman when the news media seems to have no trouble doing so.”

Mr King said it was important that she was interviewed to ensure that the president’s security was not compromised. A Secret Service source told The Sunday Telegraph that “no stone will be left unturned” and that Mr King’s demands were being taken very seriously.

Miss Suarez said in her interview that she and some girlfriends had met a group of American men in a bar on April 11 and drank two bottles of vodka with them. She had no idea that they worked for the Secret Service when one of them asked her to return with him to his hotel room.

Miss Suarez agreed to go after the agent promised to give her a “little gift” of $800-dollars. But next morning he threw her out without paying and when she knocked on the hotel room door of another agent he refused to help her.

Miss Suarez said: “I said in Spanish, ‘Look, if you show no consideration for me, why would I have consideration toward you and not call the police? In that moment, I felt strong’.”

Prostitution is legal in Colombia and Miss Suarez said she had every right to be paid for her services. She said: “I told him, there’s a problem here. Because if I had come with you to enjoy myself that would have been one thing. But I didn’t come to enjoy myself. I had to beg from 6.30 am to 10.00 am for him to pay me.”

At first the agent offered her about $27 to pay for a taxi home and eventually after she returned to the hotel room with a police officer he gave her $250-dollars (£155)

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US Secret Service Agent’s Columbian Prostitute Begged For Hours To Be Paid – Agent Offered $27 After Receiving $800 In Services – Ending Up Paying Just $250 After Police Were Involved, Stiffing His Whore Out Of $550

May 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – One of the Colombian prostitutes involved in a sex scandal with US Secret Service agents broke her silence Friday to tell how she had begged for hours to be paid $800 for her services.

“I told him, there’s a problem here. Because if I had come with you to enjoy myself that would have been one thing. But I didn’t come to enjoy myself,” Dania Londono told Caracol Television and W radio. “I had to beg from 6:30 am to 10:00am for him to pay me.”

Londono told the television she had met the men when she was in a bar in Cartagena, Colombia, with three of her friends.

They drank two bottles of vodka with the men and danced and then they agreed to go back to their hotel rooms, but Londono insisted she had asked the man she was with to give her an $800 “gift” in return.

“We danced and when we left I said, ‘Well, love, you have to give me $800, that is the gift I want to go with you,'” she noted. “He said, ‘Okay, baby. Let’s go to the hotel.’

“Neither my friend nor I were aware that they were agents of Obama at all.”

She said the next morning when she asked for her money, he swore at her and offered her 50,000 pesos ($27) for a taxi fare. Eventually with the intervention of a local police officer, who was guarding the hotel corridor, she accepted $250.

The Secret Service has been scrambling to contain the scandal that originated in Colombia in mid-April when US President Barack Obama was visiting to attend the Summit of the Americas.

More than two dozen Secret Service agents and military personnel were sent home from Cartagena where they had been preparing security for Obama’s visit.

They were accused of drinking heavily, visiting a strip club and consorting with prostitutes, including bringing sex workers to their hotel rooms.

Eight agents have since been dismissed, the security clearance of one other has been permanently revoked, and three others have been cleared of major misconduct, according to the agency.

Investigations into the actions by the agents and some 12 military personnel are ongoing.

Londono dismissed the agents as “a bunch of fools… They are responsible for Obama’s security and they still let this happen… I could have done a thousand other things,” she said, according to a transcript on CNN.

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“Airport Style” Security (Long Lines, X-Rays, And Patdowns, K-9’s In Train Cars) Coming To Chicago Area Train Stations During NATO Summit

May 4, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Some stations on the Metra Electric Line and South Shore Line could be shut down during the upcoming NATO summit, and passengers at other stations could face airport-style security screenings, due to the Secret Service security plan that could be released as soon as Friday afternoon.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has exclusive details on those security measures, which the Secret Service is expected to officially unveil on Friday, or at the very latest, on Monday. Federal officials have promised the announcement will include a “comprehensive list of street closures and parking restrictions surrounding the NATO summit.”

The Secret Service has been battling with Metra and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District over the security measures that will be needed on the Electric and South Shore lines, which both run directly under McCormick Place.

Metra and NICTD won round one of that battle, as trains on those two lines will continue to operate during the summit, although there will be significant delays at times, with trains possibly being stopped for security screening before passing McCormick Place.

The commuter rail agencies are still in talks with the Secret Service over major security measures for passengers, including airport-style screening of all riders during the summit. That would mean commuters on those lines would face patdowns, X-ray screenings, and long security lines at their stations before boarding trains.

The Secret Service initially wanted all trains to stop short of McCormick Place, with shuttle buses taking passengers around the summit site.

Then they talked about canine units conducting searches on trains, which would be halted before reaching McCormick Place.

Now, the Secret Service is planning for airport-style security screening at a limited number of stations on those two train lines. Many other stations on the Electric and South Shore lines – serving the South Side, southern suburbs and northwest Indiana – would be shut down during the summit.

Neither Metra nor the Secret Service will talk about the security measures yet. But sources said, with just over two weeks until the summit, nothing has been decided.

Earlier this week, Chicago police handled hundreds of May Day demonstrators marching from the West Side into the Loop, successfully containing the crowd with no arrests or injuries.

Many called it a trial run or dress rehearsal for NATO – for both police and protesters.

What most people didn’t see were all the CTA buses quietly re-routed around the demonstrations and marches, which will also be part of a CTA strategy to be announced after the Secret Service restrictions released.

The CTA plan will encourage commuters to use its rail lines, all of which will operate with full service. Many of its buses will not.

There will be what the CTA calls “hard closures” of bus routes affected by the security perimeter; and “soft rolling closures,” or temporary delays on other bus lines – like there were during Tuesday’s protest march – to wait for passing motorcades, parades, or demonstrations.

The CTA said bus managers and volunteers will be on the street at bus stops to help riders cope with the three-day detours.

What we’re hearing is that the CTA, RTA, and most other local agencies have been told to wait for the Secret Service announcement, before revealing their own plans.

That hints at an avalanche of information coming out about summit plans right after the feds break their silence and post all the security restrictions on various websites.

The tentative plan had that happening at around 6 p.m. Friday, but that could change.

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On-Duty Secret Service Agent Driving Car That Killed 47 Year Old Woman Crossing Street In New York City

May 4, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A 47-year-old Brooklyn woman was struck and killed by a car driven by an on-duty Secret Service agent as she attempted to cross Atlantic Avenue Thursday afternoon, police said.

Maria Tripp of Brooklyn was crossing Atlantic at Ralph Avenue when she was hit by a car going westbound on Atlantic at about 4:48 p.m., police said. Responding officers found her on the ground with head and body trauma.

Tripp was transported to Interfaith Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The driver of the black Chevrolet Impala was a Secret Service agent who was on duty at the time, authorities said. He stayed at the scene and cooperated with NYPD, police said.

The investigation is ongoing.

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