Drug Enforcement Agency officials caroused with prostitutes in Colombia at “sex parties” funded by drug cartels. Although the behavior resulted in “possible significant security risks,” it wasn’t reported up the chain of command, a new DoJ report says.
When looking into cases of sexual misconduct and sexual
harassment allegations within the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA),
the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Office of the Inspector General
(OIG) found that up to 10 DEA agents – including an assistant
regional director (ARD) – “solicited prostitutes and engaged
in other serious misconduct while in the country,” but that
those incidents were not reported to the DEA’s Office of
Professional Responsibility (OPR).
report did not name the country, but Politico reported that
the activities took place in Colombia.
Colombian sex parties
The OIG investigators interviewed a former host-country police
officer who told them he had “arranged ‘sex parties’ with
prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents
at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several
years” from 2005 to 2008. Another foreign officer said that
he had provided protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and
property during the parties and that “in addition to
soliciting prostitutes, three DEA [supervisory agents] in
particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from
drug cartel members.”
“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these
parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested
they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid
with cartel funds,” the OIG report states.
Two of the DEA agents who were subjects of the investigation told
the OIG that one of the supervisory agents “frequented a
prostitution establishment while in their overseas assignment and
often took agents serving on temporary duty to this establishment
and facilitated sexual encounters there.”
A DEA inspector who worked with the investigators told them that
“prostitution is considered a part of the local culture and
is tolerated in certain areas called ‘tolerance zones,’” and
that “it is common for prostitutes to be present at business
meetings involving cartel members and foreign officers,” the
The inspector added that the acceptability of this type of
behavior affects the way in which federal law enforcement
employees conduct themselves in Columbia, noting that agents
needed better training that explicitly prohibits this type of
conduct prior to arriving in the country.
The OPR did not report the sex parties or employment of
prostitutes to the DEA Office of Security Programs to identify
security risks to the DEA and to assess the agents’ continued
eligibility for security clearances. This was despite the fact
that the DEA inspector had explained to OPR management that most
of the “sex parties” occurred in government-leased quarters where
agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued
equipment were present, which created potential security risks
for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties,
potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion,
she told OIG.
On top of security risks to the US, the agents’ activities also
risked prosecutions against the drug cartels in Colombia.
“We found that some of the DEA Special Agents alleged to have
solicited prostitutes were also involved in the investigations of
the two former host country police officers who made these
allegations,” the OIG investigators wrote. “If these
Special Agents had served as government witnesses at the trials
of these defendants, their alleged misconduct would have had to
be disclosed to defense attorneys and would likely have
significantly impaired their ability to testify at trial.”
In the end, seven of the 10 agents admitted attending parties
with prostitutes while they were stationed. The DEA, which first
learned of the parties in 2010, imposed penalties ranging from a
two-day suspension to a 10-day suspension. One agent was cleared
of all wrongdoing.
But the linking of DEA agents to prostitutes in foreign countries
didn’t end there.
Partying with prostitutes in Thailand
“The Acting Assistant Regional Director who supervised the
two special agents in [Colombia] was also alleged to have
solicited prostitutes” in Thailand, the report states.
“In that case, the AARD allegedly engaged in sexual relations
with prostitutes at a farewell party in the AARD’s honor. There
were also allegations operational funds were used to pay for the
party and the prostitutes who participated.”
In Thailand, DEA agents patronized prostitutes “on a regular
basis,” held several loud parties with prostitutes that
occurred at an agent’s government-leased quarters, and frequented
a brothel. One of the agents was accused of assaulting a
prostitute following a payment dispute. The DEA management in the
country did not report the accusations up their chain of command
or to OPR, “treating these allegations as local management
issues,” the report found.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Politico that there would be
major action coming from the House Committee on Government
Oversight Reform, which he chairs, when the House returns
from a two-week recess in April.
“You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and
fundamentally not right,” Chaffetz said. “We need to
understand what’s happening with the culture…anytime you bring
a foreign national into your room, you’re asking for
The House Judiciary Committee may also look into the discoveries
outlined in the OIG report.
“Once again, some federal law enforcement agents are acting
like they belong in a college frat house rather than at a
taxpayer-funded law enforcement agency tasked with interdicting
illegal drugs,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob
Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in a statement. “It’s extremely
troubling that federal drug agents lacked the common sense to
know that engaging with prostitutes hired by drug cartels was a
“We must ensure that everyone involved is appropriately held
accountable for their actions,” he added.
The Justice Department said in its formal response that the
agency “will develop policy guidance that communicates the
Department’s expectations regarding the solicitation of
prostitutes in foreign jurisdictions even when the conduct is
legal or tolerated, and ensure that [it includes] language
prohibiting this conduct.”
The accusations against the DEA were part of a broader
investigation into how the Justice Department’s law enforcement
agencies handle sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. The
probe also found issues with the FBI, US Marshals Service, and
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.