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DEA agents' 'sex parties' included alleged cartel prostitutes, report says

Department of Justice report highlights 'sex parties' with prostitutes and DEA agents

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration are alleged to have had sexual encounters with prostitutes hired by drug cartels, according to a detailed report released Thursday by the Justice Department's inspector general. 

The report focuses on sexual harassment and misconduct in the DEA and other agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Within the 97-page report are allegations by a police officer in a host country that several DEA agents, including an assistant regional director, solicited prostitutes and engaged in other misconduct while in the country. The "sex parties" were funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters over a period of several years, according to the report.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed government officials, identified the country as Colombia. Members of the Secret Service were caught soliciting prostitutes there in 2012 before a visit by President Obama. 

Some of the DEA agents accused of participating in these parties denied involvement.

“Ultimately, seven of the 10 agents admitted attending parties with prostitutes," according to the report. The agents’ punishments included suspensions of between two and 10 days. One agent was cleared of any wrongdoing. 

The report says the agents should have known that prostitutes were in attendance and that they were paid with cartel funds, according to the inspector general's report. 

Officials from the DEA inspector's office, which is a watchdog within the agency, told Justice Department officials that prostitution is considered a part of the local culture and is allowed in certain areas, called “tolerance zones,” according to the report. 

None of the events were ever referred to security personnel, the report said. 

The report also notes that the inspector general had difficulties completing the review because of repeated delays and roadblocks in obtaining relevant information from the agencies. 

"After months of protracted discussions with management at both agencies, the DEA and FBI provided the information without extensive redactions but we found that the information was still incomplete," the report said.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it was “taking steps to implement policies and procedures to help prevent” future problems.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House oversight committee, called the report "truly stunning."

"Let there be no mistake this is a national security threat. While the vast majority of employees do quality work, the bad apples highlighted in the report taint their service. We need to hold them accountable and, given the clear evidence in the OIG report, they should be fired immediately," Chaffetz said. "The gross misconduct of DEA agents follows a disturbing pattern of risky and improper behavior afflicting Homeland Security and the Department of Justice." 

The events surrounding the DEA subjected the agency "to coercion, extortion, and blackmail, presenting serious security risks for the components," according to the report.

"Many of these agents were alleged to have engaged in this high-risk sexual behavior while at their government-leased quarters, raising the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents’ conduct," says the report.

The report's recommendations include ensuring that supervisors and managers report all allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment to headquarters and setting clear and consistent criteria for determining whether an allegation should be investigated.

Overall, the report noted, there were “relatively few reported allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct” outside the incident involving the DEA agents.

Chaffetz said that there should be a comprehensive push to “find the root of the culture and management problems inside these agencies” and that his committee would “vigorously” pore over the report to help rectify any problems.

Follow @kurtisalee and email kurtis.lee@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:26 p.m.: Updated with comment from the Justice Department. 

1:34 p.m. This post has been updated with additional information. 

This post was originally published at 12:25 p.m.

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