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Secret Service agents, military personnel accused of hiring prostitutes in Colombia

After a Colombian prostitute complained to police that members of the Secret Service hadn't paid her, a unit was replaced and flown home. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET:  The U.S. Secret Service put 11 employees on administrative leave Saturday as a congressman briefed on the situation gave details of their night with "presumed prostitutes" ahead of President Barack Obama's trip to a Colombia summit.

See the updated story here

Earlier, the Secret Service recalled a dozen personnel preparing for President Barack Obama’s arrival at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, after allegations surfaced that some may have brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms, according to media reports.

Also removed from duty were five military service members assigned to a joint task force to assist the Secret Service members, the United States Southern Command said Saturday.

Ron Kessler, who wrote the book, "In the President's Secret Service," told NBC News that he had learned that Secret Service personnel brought prostitutes back to their hotel room. They typically stay in the same hotel as the president, NBC News reported. He said that most of the 12 recalled officials were involved in the incident.


Kessler said authorities found out about the incident after a prostitute filed a complaint that she wasn't paid. Kessler said that police then alerted the State Department, which then alerted the White House and the Secret Service.

The service members were staying at the same hotel as the Secret Service agents who were recalled, according to a release from U.S. Southern Command. The personnel are still in Colombia, confined to quarters and under orders not to speak with each other. They will return to the U.S. on Sunday.

The unit was replaced by other agents, which was possible because the service overstaffs on international trips by bringing more agents than needed should one become ill, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The dozen Secret Service personnel sent back to the United States from Colombia were part of agency's Uniformed Division and not part of the president's immediate security detail. NBC's Kristin Welker reports.

General Douglas Fraser said this behavior is “not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military.” 

The Secret Service employees had arrived about a week before Obama touched down and stayed at Cartagena's Hotel Caribe, according to The Associated Press. A hotel employee told the AP that they had been drinking heavily throughout the week. Several reporters and White House staff also had rooms booked at the hotel.

Obama arrived in Cartagena, a port city, on Friday and attended a leaders’ dinner that night at the city’s historic Spanish fortress. Thirty-three leaders from the Americas are gathered at the summit to discuss economic policy, trade and immigration. The president was scheduled to hold two days of meetings before heading back to Washington Sunday night.

Word of the allegations leaked out Friday. The Washington Post reported that former Post reporter Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the accusations relate to at least one officer being involved with prostitutes in Colombia.

Twelve members of the U.S. Secret Service have been excused from President Obama's trip to Cartagena, Colombia, amid speculation that misconduct involving a prostitute occurred. The Washington Post's David Nakamura joins MSNBC to discuss the situation.

Adler told the Post that the entire unit was being recalled for investigation.

He later told the AP that he had no specific knowledge of wrongdoing but had heard the accusations related to prostitution. Although prostitution is legal in Colombia when conducted in “tolerance zones,” soliciting prostitutes is considered inappropriate by the Secret Service, according to the Post. Additionally, the Post reported, several of the agents sent home are married.

Cartagena has a history of problems with sex trafficking, Politico reported, and there are nongovernmental organizations dedicated to the issue, Politico reported.  

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan would not confirm that prostitution was involved, saying only that there had been "allegations of misconduct" made against Secret Service personnel.

The matter was turned over to the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles the agency's internal affairs.

 The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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