The U.S. Secret Service on Saturday placed 11 agents on administrative leave as the agency investigates accusations the men brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, last week and a dispute ensued with one woman over payment.
In addition, five U.S. military service members who were working with the Secret Service agents were confined to quarters and are facing an investigation.
Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said the officers had violated the agency’s “zero-tolerance policy on personal misconduct” during their trip to prepare for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit this weekend.
“We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused,” Morrissey said Saturday.
The rapidly unfolding scandal upstaged Obama’s trip to the summit, where he is discussing trade and the economy with 32 other regional heads of state. Though the agency has said Obama’s security was not compromised, the accusations of misconduct have brought intense scrutiny to an agency that had not had any major lapse since 2009, when two party crashers entered the White House uninvited.
The scandal grew Saturday as Defense Department officials said the five military personnel, also staying at the Hotel Caribe — where the Secret Service agents stayed — violated curfew Wednesday night and were confined to their rooms. The department will conduct its own investigation upon their return to the United States, said Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, where the military personnel were from.