May 2 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secret Service employees paid nine prostitutes for their services while in Colombia last month preparing for President Barack Obama’s arrival, said Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
King, a New York Republican, said in an interview that information about the payments was provided to him yesterday by the Secret Service.
Nine Secret Service employees have either left the agency or are in the process of being dismissed as a result of the allegations. Agency employees were in Cartagena, Colombia, preparing for a summit. The episode, under investigation by the Secret Service and lawmakers, has sparked the agency’s worst crisis outside of an assassination.
Three Secret Service employees suspected of hiring prostitutes while in Colombia declined to take polygraph tests and are among those who have left the agency, King said.
The Secret Service said it is only aware of one earlier case involving allegations employees hired prostitutes, King said. An agency uniformed officer had an encounter “several years ago” with a prostitute in Washington, D.C., and was dismissed, the lawmaker said. King said he didn’t know if the officer was on duty.
Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, declined to comment.
El Salvador Report
The Secret Service has been unable to confirm a report by KIRO-TV in Seattle saying that agents last year in El Salvador paid for sexual favors as they prepared security for an Obama visit, King said.
Ten of 12 prostitutes suspected of being involved in the Colombia incident have been interviewed, King said. The Secret Service and Colombian authorities are trying to track down the other two, he said.
There is no indication the women involved in the incident were associated with terror groups or governments seeking to obtain information from Secret Service employees, King said.
The agency has been conducting interviews with Secret Service employees in Colombia at the time of the incident, he said. About 40 or 50 of the 175 employees remain to be interviewed.
The Secret Service needs to rebuild confidence in the agency, said Dan Coats of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
“It had a sterling reputation,” he said in an interview. “It’s tarnished now.”
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