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Thursday
Oct182012

EXCLUSIVE: Inspector General’s Report Contradicts Secret Service on Prostitution Scandal

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An investigation into the U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general contradicts Secret Service director Mark Sullivan’s adamant assertion before Congress that “this just is not part of our culture,” ABC News has learned.

“Thus far, we have not found that this type of behavior was exhibited by any of these individuals before,” Sullivan testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in May, referring to the 12 agents who were accused of drinking and cavorting with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Obama’s visit for the Summit of the Americas.

The report, however, revealed that one of the agents who was in Cartagena during the scandal and picked up a prostitute “admitted to soliciting a prostitute on two previous occasions, once in El Salvador in 2008/2009 and one time in Panama in 2009.”

The report also mentioned allegations of similar misconduct by agents on trips to Romania and China. Details from the report, labeled “law enforcement sensitive,” were shared with ABC News by sources who had reviewed it.

The investigation found that while Secret Service personnel were still on the ground in Cartagena, one of the supervisors that had engaged in misconduct was alerted that his actions had become known. He, in turn, warned other Secret Service staffers in Colombia that they should not bring prostitutes back to their hotel rooms.

A senior Secret Service official with knowledge of the investigation said Sullivan had been briefed prior to his testimony, and that “while some agents had been truthful regarding their conduct with prostitutes in Cartagena, none had confessed to prior contact with prostitutes. One agent, who later admitted to the OIG that he had indeed engaged in prior misconduct with prostitutes in El Salvador and Panama, had previously denied in an interview with USSS Office of Professional Responsibility that he had not had prior contact with prostitutes.”

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on a key Senate oversight subcommittee, was thoroughly briefed on the report by the subcommittee staff, which spent two days reviewing it.  Johnson noted that it is government policy for Secret Service agents to report certain contacts with foreign nationals.

“In the three and a half years prior to the Cartagena incidents, there were only 105 of those foreign national contacts reported,” Johnson said. “Once Cartagena occurred and the policy was redistributed, you know that agents were reminded of that, 423 additional contacts were all of a sudden reported. And again, this gives me concern that rotationally this type of behavior is more widespread.”

Sullivan is also facing questions about whether he misled lawmakers about the security risks surrounding the scandal.

In May, he testified that the prostitutes’ names -- when run through U.S. national security and law enforcement databases -- did not raise any red flags, with law enforcement concluding that there was “no connection either from … an intelligence perspective or a criminal perspective.”

But the inspector general asserted that Secret Service officials knew when Sullivan testified that information about two of the prostitutes had caused what’s commonly referred to as “intel hits.” One of those hits has since been dismissed and the other is still being investigated, sources told ABC News.

The senior Secret Service official asserted that before his testimony, “Sullivan was briefed as to the current status of the investigation and the facts known at that time. He was briefed that checks of the women’s names against national security and law enforcement databases, both in the U.S. and Colombia, had yielded no derogatory information.”

The official acknowledged that the Secret Service was told that there had been “potentially… a partial match to the name of one of the women, but at the time, Director Sullivan was briefed that it was not a match. Indeed, the Secret Service, working with other government agencies, was never able to confirm a connection.”

The DHS inspector general has faced challenges in his investigation, with 10 senior and current Secret Service officials refusing to grant him or his investigators an interview.

“We are concerned that the inspector general was interfered [with] in terms of his investigation, that was constrained and hampered,” Johnson told ABC News.

The inspector general also said the Justice Department denied its request to pursue the legal authority to conduct interviews with the prostitutes, hotel staff, or nightclub employees in Colombia and to access hotel records. Justice Department officials asserted they provided the inspector general with the documents that they were seeking.

“These are very serious charges -- the fact that the Secret Service has been implicated in this kind of behavior that puts the president’s life at risk, our national security at risk and we cannot get the answers,” Johnson said.

Ten days after the scandal broke, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “There have been no specific, credible allegations of misconduct by anyone on the White House advance team or the White House staff.”

The inspector general’s report also noted that the White House counsel conducted her own investigation when two staffers -- one a soldier who was part of the White House Communications Agency, the other a White House Advance Team volunteer -- were also cited in follow-up investigations, after Carney’s comments.

The soldier ultimately confessed, but the advance team volunteer denied any wrongdoing.  The White House argues that the only information tying the volunteer to the scandal was a hotel log in which a prostitute listed the volunteer’s room number as her destination.  White House officials noted that a Secret Service agent was similarly implicated -- falsely -- in the scandal, and that they are convinced of the volunteer’s innocence. They have no further information about whom the prostitute was visiting.

Last week, Johnson wrote letters to Director Sullivan, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a detailed description of the findings from their investigations into the scandal.

“Director Mark Sullivan and the Secret Service have conducted a fair and thorough investigation resulting from the Cartagena incident,” Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told ABC News in a written statement. “The agency response to those with oversight responsibility has been timely and truthful with over a dozen briefings to Congress, hundreds of employee interviews, and tens of thousands of documents turned over to oversight entities. We have remained in close touch with those partners to answer any questions and will continue to respond to the DHS-OIG and Congressional inquiries in that manner. Since 1865, the Secret Service has done its job with excellence and integrity, and the true culture of our employees is demonstrated everyday as we execute both our investigative and protective missions.”

“The fact that we’ve hit a brick wall just makes me highly suspicious that there is something being covered up here and the American public has a right to know,” Johnson said.

A senior White House official said Thursday evening that the White House continues to have confidence in Sullivan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May212012

Colombia Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Spreads to the DEA

Eric Kayne/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration Monday announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena.

Two of the agents allegedly had encounters with masseuses in the apartment of one of the agents, according to Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"It's disturbing that we may be uncovering a troubling culture that spans more than one law enforcement agency," the Maine Republican said Monday evening. "In addition to the Secret Service scandal, we now learn that at least two DEA agents apparently entertained female foreign national masseuses in the Cartagena apartment of one of the agents. The evidence uncovered thus far indicates that this likely was not just a one-time incident."

The revelations that Secret Service personnel had been drinking heavily and cavorting with prostitutes ahead of Obama's trip to Colombia last month overshadowed the president's trip to the Summit of the Americas. Twelve members of the military were also investigated for allegedly hiring prostitutes.

Eight of the 12 Secret Service employees implicated in the scandal lost their jobs, another is in the process of losing his security clearances, and three agents were cleared of serious misconduct but still could be disciplined. The military has completed its investigation but no disciplinary action has been carried out.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration was provided information from the Secret Service unrelated to the Cartagena hotel Secret Service incident, which DEA immediately followed up on, making DEA employees available to be interviewed by the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General," a DEA spokesperson said in a statement.

"DEA takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will take appropriate personnel action, if warranted, upon the conclusion of the OIG investigation," the statement said.

A spokesman for the OIG said the DEA is cooperating in the investigation, which is being coordinated with the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

The DEA has agents posted in Colombia to work on counter-narcotic and drug interdiction missions with Colombian authorities. According to officials the agents were among those assigned in Colombia, they were not specifically working on the President's trip.

The revelations about the DEA agents comes ahead of a hearing scheduled on Wednesday with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

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

Wednesday
Apr252012

President Obama is ‘Angry’ About Secret Service Scandal, Carney Says

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Now that the allegations against the dozen U.S. Secret Service agents and officers have been investigated and proven accurate, President Obama is “angry,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.

The president had previously stated he was withholding judgment until the allegations were investigated.

“Yes,” Carney said when asked if the president was “angry.” “I think he said as much in the interview he did with Jimmy Fallon last night. But he also believes that the actions of these individuals do not represent the Service as a whole… 99 percent of the men and women who work for the Secret Service are absolute professionals.”

“Of course he is angry,” Carney said of Obama's feelings. He added that the agents exhibited "inappropriate behavior, behavior that is not acceptable for people who work for the U.S. government or representing the American people abroad.”

Carney noted that the job of U.S. Secret Service agent is “not just about protecting an individual and his family, it’s about protecting the presidency, a vital function in our democracy.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov222011

More Arrests in SAT Cheating Scandal

Hemera/Thinkstock(MINEOLA, N.Y.) -- Eleven young adults, including three men who authorities say posed as students and took the SAT for others in exchange for money, surrendered to authorities at New York's Nassau County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday to face felony charges in a college entrance exam cheating scandal that continues to grow.

"Educating our children means more than teaching them facts and figures. It means teaching them honesty, integrity and a sense of fair play," Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Tuesday in Mineola, N.Y. "The young men and women arrested today instead chose to scam the system and victimize their own friends and classmates, and for that they find themselves in handcuffs."

Joshua Chefec, 20; Adam Justin, 19; and George Trane, 19, were escorted by their parents as they turned themselves in to investigators on Long Island. The fourth accused man, Michael Pomerantz, 18, is expected to turn himself in Monday.

Authorities said the men headed up a cheating ring that charged students $3,500 in exchange for them taking the SAT or ACT. Prosecutors said that eight of the nine students who paid the four to take the tests surrendered as well Tuesday. They could all face misdemeanor charges.

Kathleen Fineout Steinberg of the College Board said the agency and Educational Testing Services would continue to review its security enhancements. The ETS hired a firm led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to determine whether its security procedures were deficient.

This scam involved current or former students at Roslyn High School, St. Mary's in Manhassett, Great Neck South and North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck.

The charges follow the September bust of a ring allegedly led by Emory University student Sam Eshaghoff, who prosecutors say charged $1,500 to $2,500 to take the tests for six students. The students, who knew one another from Great Neck North High School, were also charged.

In 2011, 138 scores were canceled after ETS concluded that individuals had cheated on the exam. More than 2 million students take the test each year, according to the College Board website.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov102011

Alleged Penn State Victim’s Mom Speaks Out

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The mother of one of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child sex assault victims tells ABC News that her son felt he didn’t have the power to resist the former Penn State assistant football coach.

The boy also told his mother that he was so traumatized that he still has difficulty openly discussing what happened years later.

In fact, even the boy’s mother did not fully understand his allegations at first.

“I had said, ‘You know, maybe we should have come to this conclusion earlier, you should have told me,’” she said she told her son during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos set to air on Good Morning America Friday.

“He was like, ‘Well, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do, and you just can’t tell Jerry no,’” she said.

Sandusky is charged with abusing at least eight boys over 15 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug122011

Romantic Scandal at University of Vermont Leads to Resignations

Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, Vt.) -- A scandalous romance among high-powered administrators at the University of Vermont has rocked the leafy campus and lead to two major resignations.

The lucrative severance packages both men received after resigning has prompted a secondary scandal at the school.

Through a public records request made by a Vermont newspaper called Seven Days, it was revealed that University President Daniel Fogel's wife Rachel Kahn-Fogel was having an inappropriate relationship with Michael Schultz, the school's assistant vice president for development. Kahn-Fogel volunteered in Schultz's office.

And there's a twist to the alleged tryst. Schultz was earning his doctorate from the school by writing a dissertation about the role of the university president's spouse. His paper was titled, "Elucidating the Role of the University CEO's Spouse in Development, Alumni Relations, and Fundraising."

The university confirmed the authenticity and release of public records to Seven Days. The newspaper reports that the Kahn-Fogel sent suggestive emails to Schultz for over six years. She also went to extra lengths to make sure that Schultz was assigned to work with her for school related events she helped coordinate and organize.

After going out to dinner together in November 2004, Kahn-Fogel wrote a long email to Schultz about the evening. "From lake viewing to lake viewing, from kiss to kiss…I will never, never forget last night and the happiness I felt with you," she wrote.

In 2006, when Schultz apparently tried to end the relationship, Kahn-Fogel wrote a long and emotional letter.

"I am very sad…I had great hopes that you and I could keep seeing each other," she wrote. "I dread that it is just a time for you to detach from me forever and that you will never see me alone again and will stop loving me. It is torture not knowing," she wrote.

Last year, Schultz separated from his wife Pauline Manning.

The school's board of trustees released their review of the situation on Wednesday.

"I want to express both my regret that this situation was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and my confidence that we will effectively address these types of issues going forward," Trustee Chairman Robert Cioffi said in a statement.

The review called Kahn-Fogel's behavior "clearly inappropriate and imprudent," but also determined that no state laws or school policies were violated.

Fogel supported the investigation and said in statement, "It is good to have reached closure on this unfortunate matter, and I regret the distractions it has caused the University." The president resigned last month.

Schultz accepted a hefty severance package on Wednesday following the school's board of trustee's investigation and review.

Schultz's controversial severance package has many outraged. In addition to receiving a full year's salary in 2012, he will maintain all of his benefits through 2011 including, "medical insurance, life insurance, cell phone allowance, access to UVM fitness center and the Bailey Howe Library," according the separation agreement. The health insurance will continue through 2012 or until he finds another job. The university will also pay tuition for Schultz's three young children.

The university will also be paying for Fogel's resignation. He will take a one year leave, during which he will retain his full salary and benefits, valued at about $410,000. In 2013, he will return to the school with a position in the English department that will pay $195,000 a year.

In response to the pricey agreements, Cioffi said, "Certainly I have heard a significant amount of anger, frustration, and second-guessing around this situation, and I completely understand the reasons for those views. I recognize that it's a lot of money, but in the national marketplace for university presidents it is not at all out of line."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun122011

Weiner Scandal: A Victory for Women Leaders?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The salacious sexting drama involving Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is the latest scandal to top the list of male politicians getting caught for their misbehavior.

A roundtable of prominent women joined ABC’s This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour to explore whether more women in positions of power would change this trend and the public sphere's culture.

"The mentality has to change. The world is half men and half women. The government has to reflect the world," said Cecilia Attias, the former first lady of France who was married to Nicholas Sarkozy.

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Torie Clarke said that with the prominence of such scandals, being a female leader can be an advantage in politics and the public sector.

"Often women are seen as more honest, more sincere, as harder working," Clarke said. "This may be an opportunity for more women to step into those positions."

ABC's Claire Shipman, co-author of Womenomics, says there are numerous studies that show that a company with more women in senior positions will be more profitable.

"In every decision, diversity leads to better decisions," Shipman said. "In other words, a group of all white men are not going to reach the best decision."

Referencing a quotation from Debbie Walsh, the head of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Amanpour said, "The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody."

"I think that's absolutely right. And you just listen to different members of Congress and how they talk," said Clarke. "The female members of Congress often say, 'this is what we're trying to get done. This is where we want to be five years from now.' Versus a male member of Congress who says, 'this is what I want to do.'"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Woman Who Schwarzenegger Fathered a Child with Is Identified

Myspace(NEW YORK) -- The household staff member who former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with has been identified as Mildred Patricia Baena, ABC News has learned.

Known as Patty, Baena reportedly worked in Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's home as a housekeeper and assistant for more than 20 years.  Her son, who has not been identified, is believed to be about 14 years old. (View a copy of the birth certificate here.)

According to The New York Times, there was a period 14 years ago when Baena was working -- while pregnant -- at the couple's Brentwood, California mansion during the same time that Shriver was pregnant with Schwarzenegger's son -- the youngest of their four children together.

Meanwhile, the man responsible for this scandal has had nothing more to say since The Los Angeles Times reported the story early Tuesday morning.

As he left his office in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday, Schwarzenegger had no comment to the throng of waiting paparazzi.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov222010

Teacher in Student Sex Scandal Is Pregnant

Photo Courtesy - WFAA-TV Dallas/Ft. Worth(DALLAS) -- A 26-year-old former high school science teacher who was arrested for having sex with one of her students is pregnant, amid speculation that her alleged victim may be the father.

Jennifer Riojas is out on bond after being arrested Wednesday for sexual assault against a child under 17. The arrest came nearly a month after she resigned from her job as a science teacher at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth, Texas.

Court documents detail a tawdry affair between student and teacher, with the two even taking to the teenager's hospital bed for sex at one point.

ABC's Dallas affiliate WFAA reported that the paternity for Riojas' baby has not been established, but that the teenager came forward because he was concerned that he might be the father.

Riojas is next due in court Dec. 7.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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