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Three more agents leaving Secret Service in prostitution inquiry

April 20, 2012|By Ken Dilanian
  • People walk past Hotel El Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, where Secret Service personnel were staying before President Obama's visit.
People walk past Hotel El Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, where Secret Service… (Pedro Mendoza / Associated…)

WASHINGTON – Three more Secret Service employees who were involved in the Colombian prostitution scandal are leaving the agency, bringing the total to half a dozen agents or uniformed officers who saw their careers cut short in a widening investigation of alleged misconduct.

The latest casualties of the embarrassing episode “have chosen to resign,” said Paul Morrissey, spokesman for the Secret Service. He also announced that a 12th agency employee is being investigated, one more than previously known.

In all, 12 Secret Service employees – either agents from a counter-assault team or uniformed officers who work with bomb sniffing dogs or magnetometers – and 11 members of the military, also one more than previously known, are alleged to have engaged in heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and the hiring of  prostitutes in the resort city of Cartagena.

The carousing occurred on the night of April 11, two nights before Obama arrived to participate in last weekend’s high-profile Summit of the Americas.

At this point, five Secret Service employees remain on administrative leave, and their top secret security clearances have been suspended pending results of the investigation .

One member of the Secret Service group has been “cleared of serious misconduct but will face appropriate administrative action,” Morrissey said. Such action could include a letter of reprimand, a warning that could jeopardize his security clearance, another official said.

Earlier this week, the Secret Service announced that three agents, including two senior supervisors with decades of experience, were departing the agency. Officials are seeking to dismiss one supervisor, another was allowed to retire and a nonsupervisory employee resigned.

The latest development came shortly after the Army announced that another member of the military also was investigation.

Six of the military group are from an Army Special Forces unit, two are members of the Marine Corps, two are in the Navy and one is from the Air Force, according to Col. Scott Malcom, who heads public affairs at United States Southern Command.

The Marines and Navy personnel are based in San Diego, and the Air Force member is from Charleston, S.C. The Army personnel are from the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), which is based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The 11 have not been charged and are not under any special restrictions. But they are required to remain at their home stations until the investigation is complete, Malcom said.

It is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for military personnel to patronize prostitutes. The Secret Service says its code of conduct also bars such activities, even though prostitution is legal in parts of Cartagena.

The military investigating officer in Cartagena has shared information with Secret Service investigators “to ensure thoroughness and accuracy of information,” Malcom said. The two investigations are running on parallel tracks, but they are separate and distinct.

Malcom said the military investigator is expected to return to the United States late this weekend. “Once returned, he will interview those suspected of misconduct in person straight away,” he said.

Gen. Douglas Fraser, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, will review the results of the investigation and forward them to the services “to administer any type of justice required at the level of command commensurate with the offense,” Malcom said.

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

Original source: Three more agents leaving Secret Service in prostitution inquiry

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