Eleven U.S. Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave today because of allegations of misconduct that involve contact with prostitutes near the site of the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.
The agents, who were sent to Cartagena, Colombia, in advance of the arrival of President Barack Obama, were relieved from their duties and returned to the U.S. when the charges were made on April 12, according to a statement today from Secret Service spokesman Paul S. Morrissey.
They were special agents and uniformed officers who were not assigned to Obama’s protective detail, Morrissey said.
At least one agent is being accused of getting into a dispute over payment to a prostitute in Cartagena, according to Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which provides legal representation for Secret Service agents.
The story of the agents’ alleged misbehavior became public just as leaders of the Western Hemisphere were beginning talks on trade, drug legalization in South America, and creating greater transparency among South American governments.
Obama was told about the allegations yesterday and the issue “has been more of a distraction for the press” than for the president at the Summit of the Americas, spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing today.
“These actions have had no impact on the Secret Service’s ability to execute a comprehensive security plan for the President’s visit to Cartagena,” Morrissey said. “This matter was turned over to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs component.”
The personnel involved were interviewed at Secret Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. today and placed on administrative leave, a “standard procedure,” Morrissey said in the statement.
Morrissey said, “We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused.”
The agents had stayed at Cartagena’s Hotel Caribe, where several members of the White House staff and the news media also stayed, the Associated Press reported.
In addition, five members of the U.S. military who were staying at the same hotel violated a curfew set by the senior U.S. defense official at the U.S. embassy in Colombia, according to Colonel Scott Malcom, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Southern Command.
The five had been sent to Colombia to support the summit, in part by providing security, Malcom said. They will remain in Colombia during the summit because their skills and knowledge are needed, Malcom said, adding that they will be restricted to their hotel rooms when not carrying out official duties.
The military has yet to determine whether the five violated any rules beyond the curfew, Malcom said. He didn’t provide their ranks or military branch.