(NEW YORK) — A group of Secret Service agents allegedly visited a strip club and paid for sexual favors during an advance trip to El Salvador just days before President Obama’s official visit there in March 2011, an unnamed source told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV.
The Secret Service acknowledged Thursday it is investigating the claim, which comes days after the agency fired eight agents for their meetings with prostitutes in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit. “The recent investigation in Cartagena has generated several news stories that contain allegations by mostly unnamed sources,” Secret Service spokesman Max Milien told ABC News. “Any information that is brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner.”
According to the report, a U.S. government subcontractor who “worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team” saw a majority of the group of about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists who were on the trip get “wasted” at the strip club in San Salvador before paying to enter a VIP area and receive sexual favors.
At least two of the agents brought escorts, who may or may not have been strip club employees, into their hotel rooms during the trip, according to the report. The source claims he attempted to dissuade the agents, but that they boasted that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it.” The new report adds to the allegations of misconduct against Secret Service agents, after a scandal erupted around Secret Service agents’ meetings with prostitutes during a trip earlier this month to Cartagena, Colombia ahead of President Obama’s arrival there for an international summit.
This week, the Secret Service announced that it had dealt with all 12 agents and supervisors implicated in the Cartagena scandal, with eight losing their jobs over their involvement in the ordeal.
During a trip to Brazil Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologized for an incident in 2011 when three Marine guards allegedly fought with a prostitute in a car and then allegedly tossed her out of their moving car, injuring her. Two Marines were demoted and a U.S. embassy employee was removed from his post in connection with the incident. A State Department spokeswoman denied the woman was thrown from the car, and said she was injured when she tried to get back into the car.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that if the Cartagena scandal had been part of a pattern, “that would be a surprise to me.”
The new allegations were reported Thursday by KIRO’s Chris Halsne, who recently returned from a trip to El Salvador, where he interviewed the source. Halsne said he initially heard the allegations from the same source last year while he was covering a separate story in El Salvador. Halsne said he planned to name the names of the agents allegedly involved.
He also interviewed the owner of the strip club, who claimed that Secret Service agents were at his club on at least three consecutive nights, and that his club has hosted U.S. Embassy employees, DEA agents and FBI agents when they are in town. The club owner denied, however, that he allows prostitution in his establishment. Prostitution is legal in El Salvador and Colombia.
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