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Entries in Prostitution (22)

Tuesday
May082012

Secret Service Scandal: ‘Significant Gaps’ in Pentagon’s Handling?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After receiving a briefing Tuesday from Department of Defense officials on their investigation into alleged misconduct by Secret Service and military personnel in Colombia, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., says there were “significant gaps” in the Pentagon chain of command in handling the incident. Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The investigation has found gaps, some significant gaps, that existed in a number of ways,” Sen. Carl Levin said, ticking through the gaps as follows:

1. There was a failure to notify the chain of command of the assignment of certain personnel in their chain of command to Colombia.

2. There was a failure to notify the chain of command promptly of the events that took place in Colombia, including the decision to keep suspected people there. The Secret Service people were immediately sent back to the U.S., but the Department of Defense personnel who were suspected of misconduct were not.

3. The decision to keep those suspected personnel on the mission was made without the input of the higher-ups on the chain of command.

Levin said that the defense officials assured the senators Tuesday that the gaps would be “corrected.”

Levin was briefed along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking Republican on the committee, for over an hour by DOD officials on the status of their investigation into the incident.

The senators said the investigation is “basically complete.” They said that the Pentagon’s Southern Command, which oversees operations in South America, should be releasing a statement soon with its report and recommendations as to whether or not there should be charges of misconduct against the 12 members of the military involved in the scandal.

The senators said the investigation also shows that “to date there is no evidence of additional risk to the security of the president or the presidential party or to the summit,” Levin said.

McCain added that there were “no classified information or weapons” in the hotel in Cartagena, Colombia where the case began.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr272012

Scandal Brings New Secret Service Rules

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- No more exotic strip clubs and nights of heavy drinking for Secret Service personnel on foreign trips. And inviting foreign nationals back to the hotel room is now definitely off-limits.

In the wake of a scandal involving prostitutes on a presidential trip to Colombia, Secret Service management Friday issued new regulations for agents on a foreign assignment.

The new rules say:

  • "Patronization of non-reputable establishments is prohibited."
  • "Alcohol may not be consumed at the protectee hotel once the protective visit has begun."
  • "Foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room."
  • "Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on ... assignment and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty."

Several Secret Service agents on a presidential trip to Colombia have lost their security clearances or their jobs over alleged misbehavior said to include heavy drinking at a sex club and hotel, and the use of prostitutes.

The behavior raised ethical and security questions about the agency charged with protecting the president.

The new regulations also will require all agents to complete ethics training before being eligible for travel assignments. In addition, agents will be briefed on standards of conduct before departing on a trip, and a supervisor from the Secret Service's Office of Responsibility will travel with all agency teams to make sure standards are observed. Finally, the new regulations say that the laws of the United States shall apply to Secret Service personnel while abroad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr272012

State Department 'Take Your Child to Work Day' Features Adult Topics

U.S. State Department(WASHINGTON) -- When State Department officials brought their young children to work Thursday to watch the daily press briefing, they likely expected that reporters from some of the world’s most prestigious news agencies would be asking the usual complex foreign policy questions on subjects like human rights and nuclear power. But the briefing was mostly about hookers, strippers and sex acts that may or may not have been committed by department employees working overseas.

Spokesperson Victoria Nuland looked embarrassed as she answered the various questions. “What a topic to be talking about on Bring Your Kids To Work day,” Nuland said. “Parents, you can explain all of this later.”

Some of the reporters tried to be sensitive with their questions considering  the underage audience, using code terms like “type of business” when referring to  strip clubs, or “engaging in activities” as a euphemism for hiring prostitutes.

But the story in question, a widening of the Secret Service scandal in Colombia to include foreign service employees behaving badly in other countries like Brazil and El Salvador, demanded some straight talk and answers.

Nuland at one point ended up reading straight from the Foreign Service manual. “Members of the Foreign Service are prohibited from engaging in notoriously disgraceful conduct which includes frequenting prostitutes and engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations or engaging in sexual activity that could open the employee up to the possibility of blackmail, coercion or improper influence,” she said.

When reporters pressed for specifics, particularly regarding hiring prostitutes in countries where prostitution is legal, Nuland minced no words.

“The department’s view is that people who buy sex acts fuel the demand for sex trafficking, and given our policies designed to help governments prevent sex trafficking, etc., it is not in keeping with the behavior that we want to advocate and display ourselves,” she told reporters.

None of the children in the room asked any questions, or looked particularly shocked.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr252012

Are the Secret Service Getting Special Treatment in Prostitution Scandal Investigation?

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Secret Service is investigating itself in the Colombia prostitution scandal, rather than turn the probe over to the independent Inspector General who typically looks into allegations of misconduct by Department of Homeland Security officials.

The approach appears to be the result of a special carve-out for the Secret Service forged a decade ago -- setting it apart from the standard described in a 2009 internal DHS memo, which specifically asserts that the Inspector General is "statutorily responsible for conducting and coordinating all investigations" of wrongdoing by other Homeland Security employees.

On Wednesday, Sen. Charles Grassley told ABC News that he is not comfortable allowing the Secret Service's own internal affairs division to oversee the investigation -- especially because it remains unclear whether the raucous behavior in Colombia was a one-time lapse, or the sign of a broad systemic problem.

"An investigation by the agency's own Office of Professional Responsibility is necessary, but it doesn't provide transparent, independent oversight without an Inspector General's outside perspective," the Iowa Republican said Wednesday. "There's too much at stake to leave any doubts that an independent investigation wasn't conducted."

Grassley asked Napolitano during her appearance before a Senate committee Wednesday whether the department's independent, investigatory arm, the Office of Inspector General, would step in and undertake its own probe into the matter.

Napolitano responded that there is a standing agreement -- "a memorandum of understanding" -- between the Secret Service and the Inspector General that governs how internal investigations are conducted. "In these types of cases, where there is alleged misconduct, [the Inspector General] actually supervises the investigation but they use the investigatory resources of the Secret Service. That's how we are managing this one."

That is not, however, how the Inspector General's office described the arrangement in response to questions from ABC News Wednesday, in an exchange that occurred after Napolitano gave her answer to the Senate.

Spokeswoman Rachael Norris told ABC News that the inspector general is "closely monitoring" the Secret Service's investigation and will review it when it has been completed.

"We're monitoring their internal investigation at this time," Norris said. "We are not conducting an additional investigation at this time."

The Inspector General's subordinate role appears to date to 2003, when the Secret Service was moved from the Department of Treasury into the newly created Homeland Security department. Both the Secret Service and the Coast Guard, which was moved from the Transportation Department to DHS the same year, retained their internal investigative powers.

Investigation of misconduct in those two agencies appears to differ from the manner in which the Inspector General handles oversight of other agencies within Homeland Security. In a Dec. 16, 2009 memo, written to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Inspector General took issue with efforts by that agency's internal affairs division to investigate misconduct by its own Border Patrol agents.

"The Office of Inspector General is the organizational element within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is statutorily responsible for conducting and coordinating all investigations of suspected criminal wrongdoing by DHS employees, and has specific oversight responsibility for internal investigations performed by components," asserted Thomas M. Frost, then the assistant inspector general for investigations, in the memo.

Grassley said he believes the approach should be the same in the case of alleged Secret Service misconduct.

"The Inspector General should take a more active role because we can't be left with any questions that the protection of the President and national security are at risk," he said.

Grassley has also engaged in a war of words with the Obama administration over its handling of his question about the possibility that any White House advance staff joined in the partying in Colombia that occurred in advance of the president's arrival there.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House Counsel's office conducted its own internal review and concluded no White House staff had participated. Grassley has sent the White House a letter asking that the details of its internal review be made public.

The Inspector General's office told ABC News it has not deviated from its standard procedure in this case. And Napolitano told senators she has "full confidence" in the Secret Service's ability to conduct its own internal review.

"Director Sullivan has the President's and my full confidence as this investigation proceeds," she said. "The investigation will be complete and thorough and we will leave no stone unturned."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Calls for More Women in Secret Service Amid Prostitution Scandal

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Washington has begun asking if the Secret Service needs more women in the organization in the wake of the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, that has led to six agents being fired or resigning.

The call comes after it became public on Saturday that a woman named Paula Reid, who heads the Miami field office for the Secret Service, which also overseas South America, was the supervisor who moved quickly to contain last week’s incident.

Eleven agents were pulled from their assignments as part of the advance staff preparing for President Obama’s trip to Cartagena after allegations emerged that one of the agents had a dispute over payment with a prostitute.

“I can’t help but wonder if there’d been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) during an appearance on ABC News’ This Week on Sunday.

While Reid wasn’t in charge of Obama’s security detail, she was the agent who notified Washington about the incident.  Sources say it was ultimately the decision of Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to pull the men out of Colombia.

“I can’t help but keep asking this question, ‘Where are the women?’” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) on This Week.  “We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women.”

Secret Service officials insist that there are plenty of women in key roles.  Currently, there are at least two deputy assistant directors -- the head of the legal department, and the head of the Paris field office -- who are women.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr012012

Gang Members Arrested on Charges of Sex Trafficking Suburban Teens 

Medioimages/Photodisc/ThinkStock(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Sex trafficking is moving to the suburbs.

Federal prosecutors have charged five alleged gang members with trafficking teenage girls into prostitution in suburban Northern Virginia, one of the wealthiest areas in the United States, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The five young men, who were arrested beginning Tuesday, were allegedly members of a Fairfax, Va.-based affiliate of the Crips, the notorious gang with Los Angeles roots that is known for shootouts, drugs and prostitution.

The defendants, which include accused ringleader Justin Strom, 26, of Lorton, Va., allegedly lured girls as young as 16 years old by approaching them at high schools, metro stations, and on the street, as well as contacting them through social media sites like Facebook.

The gang members would flatter the young women about their appearances, and ask them if they'd like to make a lot of money. Once they had drawn the girls in, the gangs used violence and drugs to force them into prostitution.

For example, the report said that a 17-year-old referred to as Victim No. 5 was "scared and tried to back out" when she found out the job she'd been recruited for involved prostitution.

A gang member "slammed her head against the window of [a] vehicle." He then "cut her across the left forearm with a knife" and gang members raped her, according to the affadavit.

Some of the girls were taken door to door in apartment complexes to solicit work. According to the affidavit, the payment they received for the sex acts ranged from $20 to $100, half of which they were allowed to keep.

Perhaps the most surprising admission from the affidavit was that the alleged gang members recruited teens from wealthy suburbs, though they targeted rural areas, too.

"Many of the victims in this case were girls from good homes, in good neighborhoods," Neil MacBride, a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told reporters at a press conference. "The girls recruited were girls who lived at home with their parents, not always runaways."

Fairfax County Chief of Police David Rohrer told reporters the case illustrates that "gangs will target anyone."

While the police were able to save 10 teenage victims of the prostitution ring, federal prosecutors said the Crips may have solicited as many as 800 girls. The affidavit details local gang members' involvement in prostitution from as many as five years ago.

This incident marks the 16th case of human trafficking charged in the Eastern District of Virginia in the last year, officials said.

Prosecutors told reporters that the other men charged are Michael Tavon Jefferies, 21, of Woodbridge; Donyel Dove, 27, of Alexandria; Henock Ghile, 23, of Springfield; and Christopher Sylvia, 22, of Springfield.

"The message is clear," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "Law enforcement is looking for you, charging you and putting you behind bars for the rest of your life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar122012

"Millionaire Madam’s" Alleged Partner to Turn Herself In

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The alleged accomplice of the "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina is reportedly expected to turn herself in soon, while a former call girl said Gristina is not the suburban hockey mom she has portrayed herself to be.

Jaynie Mae Baker might "surrender to the Manhattan district attorney's office as early as Monday or Tuesday," a source told the New York Daily News.

Baker was indicted last week along with Gristina for allegedly helping to build a base of clients that included politicians, bankers, executives, top law enforcement officials and other powerful individuals, according to the New York Post.

If convicted, Baker faces up to seven years on felony charges of promoting prostitution.

As for Gristina, she was expected back in court Monday where a judge will look at her finances to determine whether she should receive a court-paid defense.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Irma Nici has come forward to say that she worked as a call girl and that Gristina referred her clients. Nici, who is originally from Bosnia, had a business relationship with Gristina for four to six years, lawyer Paul Jensen said. While Nici described Gristina as polite, supportive and pleasant, Nici's attorney said, there's more to Gristina than she is letting on.

"What I have been told is that Anna Gristina was providing prostitution services and would book Irma and other girls and that this took place over a period of years," Jensen told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Some of the clients included men who could afford to pay $2,000 an hour and "consisted of well-to-do and, in some cases, quite well-known individuals," Jensen said.

Authorities arrested Gristina on Feb. 22 while she was meeting with a Morgan Stanley banker to discuss ways to expand her alleged business online.

Gristina was allegedly caught on wiretaps and surveillance videos as part of a five-year investigation by the District Attorney's Public Corruption Unit.

Gristina has four children and lives in Monroe, N.Y., with husband Kelvin Gorr.  

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov142011

President Obama Golfs With Pal Nabbed in Prostitution Sting

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(HONOLULU) -- President Obama on Monday was golfing at Mamala Bay Golf Course at Hickam Air Force Base in a group that included White House travel director Marvin Nicholson and Hawaiian pal Robert “Bobby” Titcomb, who was arrested in April on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute.

In April, Titcomb was one of four men arrested in an undercover prostitution sting operation, according to Honolulu police.

Titcomb, an airline employee and commercial fisherman, has been friends with the president since they attended Honolulu’s elite Punahou School together in the 1970s. He has visited the White House on numerous occasions to see the president, most recently in August for Obama’s birthday, when he was included in a round of golf with Obama’s closest friends at the links of Andrews Air Force Base. Afterwards Titcomb, among other friends, joined the president for a barbecue at the White House.

When the Obama family vacations in Hawaii over the Christmas holiday each year, they traditionally spend a full day at Titcomb’s North Shore home, jet-skiing, grilling, and playing volleyball. In December the Obama family spent nearly the whole day at his home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep092011

Phoenix Goddess Temple Raided as Alleged Brothel

Backpage dot com(PHOENIX) -- Arizona prosecutors have charged more than 30 people affiliated with the Phoenix Goddess Temple, a 10,000-square-foot alleged brothel that had been operating under the pretense of providing "religious" services for hundreds of dollars in cash "donations," police said.

On Sept. 7, 2011 police raided the Phoenix Goddess Temple, an alleged brothel, arresting 18 people.

"They were committing crimes under the guise of religious freedom," Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos said. "It's a sad situation when people are trying to hide behind religion and church to commit a crime."

The "temple" had been operating in Phoenix since 2009, but authorities didn't become aware of it until residents began complaining. After a local newspaper visited the alleged brothel and published an in-depth story, police launched a six-month investigation culminating in the arrest of 18 people Wednesday. They are still hunting down the other 19.

It was the largest Arizona prostitution bust since authorities broke up the tri-state "Desert Divas" ring in 2008.

Four of those indicted are men, but none of them are johns. Charges include prostitution, pandering and conspiracy.

During the investigation, police discovered the Goddess Temple was operating another alleged house of prostitution in Sedona, Ariz., which was also raided Wednesday.

Goddess Temple founder Tracy Elise, known within her business as "Mystic Mother," was one of the 18 arrested Wednesday. She had also been involved with a similar alleged brothel in Seattle, Wash., that had been shut down in 2009.

The Phoenix Goddess Temple still has several advertisements on the adult entertainment section of classified ads website Backpage.com. An ad for Iyata dated Sept. 5 showed a woman in what appears to be a belly-dancing outfit. "I will ignite you with my touch, breath, and Love. We will Cultivate your ecstasy to it's highest potential," the ad says.

The Phoenix Goddess Temple did not immediately respond to an interview request from ABC News.

Organization leaders had said in prior media interviews that they are not prostitutes, but religious healers focusing on "Root Chakra."

"There's no science and provability about this [healing system]," Elise told the Phoenix New Times in February. "But it works."

The county attorney, however, isn't buying it.

"We're not viewing this in any way as somehow protected by the first amendment," Montgomery said. "This is not religious expression. This is a criminal activity and those responsible thought they were being too clever by half by coming up with different terms."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug112011

Neighborhood Watch Launches 'Ho Patrol' to Help Crack Down on Prostitution

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(VALLEJO, Calif.) -- Once a quiet little neighborhood for raising families, Vallejo, Calif., has become overrun with crime and prostitution after budget cuts have reduced the city's police force by almost half. So a small team of residents are taking matters into their own hands.

A snapshot of the dire straits in which the Great Recession has placed many communities, prostitutes and pimps can be seen plying their tricks in broad daylight in the middle of the residential area of this San Francisco suburb.

Vallejo resident Kathy Beistel, a 48-year-old who works in the wine industry, said she has watched the city's crime rate rise and its reputation sink. One day, the problem landed on her doorstep.

"Kinda the catalyst…[there] was a pimp fight in front of [my] house," Beistel said. "At that moment I was just angry. That was like the final straw for a lot of us."

Beistel called the police to report the incident. But she learned there weren't enough officers to handle the problem. The city was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2008, creating a ripple effect of crime through the streets.

"We used to have 158 officers, we have 90 now," said Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini. "So you can see that's a pretty big cut."

Many believe the cutbacks are related to the influx of streetwalkers and pimps. But Beistel wasn't just going to stand by and watch it happen. So she and a few of her friends decided to take to the streets themselves. Known colloquially as the "ho patrol," Beistel's group calls themselves the Kentucky Street Watch Owls.

Armed with fluorescent vests, cellphones and notepads, the ladies snap photos and write down descriptions of people they suspect to be johns, hookers and pimps. They even go so far as to disrupt tricks by making their appearance known.

"We're out here walking around with a specific purpose: to make our streets better, to make our streets safer, to get the message out there, that what we see on a daily basis isn't going to be tolerated," said Pat MacKenzie, a member of the Watch Owls.

But sometimes confrontations between the Watch Owls and the prostitutes get dicey. One prostitute, who asked not to be named, told ABC News that she had already made $200 the night we spoke to her and wanted to make more that night. She added that other women on the street are not pleased with the Watch Owls' efforts.

Police Chief Robert Nichelini said the threat of danger is real. "Our concern is if they go too far, try to get involved, try to detain people, try to get involved in what would be termed 'police work,' that there is that potential for injury," he said.

The Watch Owls reiterated that it's about safety and other community groups have also taken up the cause. They are given training on how to carry themselves, how to be good witnesses and how to keep themselves protected.

To date, there have been no violent confrontations. In fact, the Watch Owls said they have tried to connect hookers with social assistance programs.

And there are signs of progress. A playground once a hotspot for suspected pimps and prostitutes is now safe for children. Beistel says that no matter how bleak the situation may look, her Watch Owls will continue their patrol.

"People need to understand that one person can make a difference," she said. "So we'll continue our neighborhood watch and, you know, support each other and take care of our neighborhood."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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