CARTAGENA, Colombia — An embarrassing scandal involving prostitutes and Secret Service agents deepened Saturday as 11 agents were placed on leave, and the agency designed to protect President Barack Obama had to offer regret for the mess overshadowing his diplomatic mission to Latin America.
The controversy also expanded to the U.S. military, which announced five service members staying at the same hotel as the agents in Colombia may have been involved in misconduct as well. They were confined to their quarters in Colombia and ordered not to have contact with others.
All the alleged activities took place before Obama arrived Friday in this Colombian port city for meetings with 33 other regional leaders.
The Secret Service did not disclose the nature of the misconduct. The Associated Press confirmed on Friday that it involved prostitutes.
The 11 employees in question were special agents and Uniformed Division Officers. None were assigned to directly protect Obama. All were sent home and replaced, Morrissey said, given “the nature of the allegations” and a zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct.
Another jolt came Saturday when the U.S. Southern Command said five service members assigned to support the Secret Service violated their curfew and may have been involved in inappropriate conduct. Carney said it was part of the same incident involving the Secret Service.
The Secret Service agents at the center of the allegations had stayed at Cartagena’s five-star Hotel Caribe. Several members of the White House staff and press corps subsequently stayed at the hotel.
A hotel employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said the agents arrived at the beachfront hotel about a week ago and said the agents left the hotel Thursday. Three waiters interviewed by the AP at the hotel described the agents as drinking heavily during their stay.
On the steamy streets of Cartagena, a resort city with a teeming prostitution trade, there was condemnation for the agents for what residents saw as abusing their station and dishonoring their country.