Eleven Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave Saturday pending the outcome of the investigation into an embarrassing prostitution scandal in Colombia continues.
The incident occurred early Thursday at a five-star historic beachfront hotel ahead of President Barack Obama's arrival at a regional summit. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press after being briefed on investigation "close to" all 11 of the agents involved brought women back to their rooms at the Hotel Caribe.
King, a New York Republican, told the AP the women were "presumed to be prostitutes" but investigators were interviewing the agents involved.
Prostitution is legal in certain areas of Colombia.
The Associated Press reported:
King said he was told that anyone visiting the hotel overnight was required to leave identification at the front desk and leave the hotel by 7 a.m. When a woman failed to do so, it raised questions among hotel staff and police, who investigated. They found the woman with the agent in the hotel room and a dispute arose over whether the agent should have paid her.
King said he was told that the agent did eventually pay the woman.
The incident was reported to the U.S. embassy, prompting further investigation, King said.
The 11 Secret Service agents involved were all relieved from duty and replaced Friday. They included special agents and uniformed division officers, the Los Angeles Times reported. None of the agents involved were assigned to directly protect Obama.
"This incident is not reflective of the behavior of our personnel as they travel every day throughout the country and the world performing their duties in a dedicated, professional manner," Secret Service spokesman Paul S. Morrissey said in a statement. "We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused."
According to the AP, three waiters at the hotel described the agents as drinking heavily during their stay. A spokeswoman for the hotel refused to comment on the incident, saying it "concerns only and exclusively the U.S. government."
White House staff and members of the press corps have subsequently stayed the hotel, which is different from where the president is staying.