Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s former top military assistant improperly used his government credit card to carouse at so-called gentlemen’s clubs in South Korea and Italy last year, a Pentagon investigation has found.
Maj. Gen. Ronald F. Lewis is alleged to have consumed alcohol to excess after-hours at the Candy Bar in Seoul and the Cica Cica Boom bar in Rome, running up nearly $3,000 on his government credit card.
A 51-page report by the Pentagon’s inspector general released Thursday accused Lewis of making a false official statement, misusing a government travel charge card, and carrying out conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
The inspector general referred the matter to the Army for discipline. Lewis was fired from his position last November when allegations of misconduct first surfaced, but he remains in the Army.
“As I said when I first learned about allegations of misconduct against Maj. Gen. Lewis and removed him as my senior military assistant, I expect the highest possible standards of conduct from the men and women in this department particularly from those serving in the most senior positions,” Carter said in a statement. “There is no exception.”
Lewis, a veteran commander and attack helicopter pilot who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was a rising star in the Army and was Carter’s top uniformed aide at the Pentagon until the scandal erupted.
The report said Lewis “disagreed with our conclusions, criticized our investigation, and disputed some of the facts we found.”
It added that Lewis was “aware of [his] mistakes, errors in judgment, and perceptions [he] may have created.”
According to the report, during a visit to Seoul last April, Lewis charged $1,121.25 at the Candy Bar club, in an area known locally as “Hooker Hill” because of prostitution, drugs and underage drinking. The bar was off-limits to U.S. military personnel.
When investigators showed him the credit card charges, including an 81% tip, Lewis denied being at the Candy Bar and called Citibank to have them removed. The bank agreed but investigators determined Lewis was lying.
Lewis visited Rome last October on official travel with Carter and Pentagon staff. Investigators say Lewis used a government-issued credit card at the Cica Cica Boom club, which advertises “Sexy Show,” “Fans Club” and “Lap Dance.”
Lewis told investigators that he danced and drank with local women for three hours and tried to pay the $1,755.98 bill with his personal debit card, but it wasn’t accepted.
He said a woman from the club then went with him to his hotel at 1:40 a.m. to get his government-issued credit card from an unnamed female subordinate.
Lewis woke her to get the card while his escort waited outside the room, which was down the hall from where Carter was staying, the report said.
“I left [the club] with a big bill and they wanted to make sure I came back and paid it,” Lewis told investigators. “It had to be put on my government card in order to have this bill cleared.”
Investigators said Lewis, a married father of two, also had acted inappropriately with female colleagues on several occasions.
During a trip to Palo Alto in August 2015, the report said, he invited a female soldier into his hotel room while he wore only gym shorts. After that, she made sure someone accompanied her whenever she had to report to Lewis’ room.
Lewis is one of several high-profile Army generals recently fired because of personal misconduct.
Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, who headed an infantry division at Fort Riley, Kan., and National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Bobeck, who was assigned to the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon, were relieved of their duties last month. In August, Maj. Gen. David Haight was removed from his job running operations for U.S. European Command.