President Obama left Air Force One in early March surrounded by Secret Service agents. The Secret Service has fallen under a shadow after 11 of its members reportedly consorted with prostitutes while on a mission in Colombia.
Luke Sharrett, New York Times
Colombian escort: 'They never told me they were with Obama'
- Article by: WILLIAM NEUMAN
- New York Times
- April 18, 2012 - 10:08 PM
A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama's arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night's intercourse.
"I tell him, 'Baby, my cash money,'" the woman said in her first public comments on a spat that would soon spiral into a full-blown scandal.
The dispute was that he offered $30 for services she thought they had agreed were worth 25 times that, and it set off a tense early morning struggle in the hallway of the posh hotel involving the woman, another prostitute, Colombian police officers arguing on the women's behalf and U.S. federal agents who tried but failed to keep the matter -- which has shaken the reputation of the Secret Service -- from escalating.
Sitting on a couch in her living room wearing a short jean skirt, high-heeled espadrilles and a tight spandex top with a plunging neckline, the woman described how she and a girlfriend were approached by a group of U.S. men at a disco. In an account that tracked with the official version of events coming out of Washington, but could not be independently confirmed, she said the men bought a bottle of Absolut vodka for the table and when that was finished bought a second one.
"They never told me they were with Obama," she said. "They were very discreet."
Dispute over payment
A taxi driver who picked up the woman at the Hotel Caribe the morning of the encounter said he heard her and another woman recount the dispute over payment. When approached by the New York Times, the woman was reluctant to speak about what had occurred. As she nervously told her story, a friend gave details that seemed to corroborate her account.
There was a language gap between the 24-year-old woman, who declined to give her full name, and the U.S. man who sat beside her all night and eventually invited her back to his room. She agreed, stopped on the way to buy condoms but told him he would have to give her a gift. He asked how much. Not knowing he worked for Obama but figuring he was a well-heeled foreigner, she said, she told him $800. The price alone, she said, indicates that she is an escort, not a prostitute.
By 6:30 the next morning, after being awakened by a phone call from the hotel front desk reminding her that, under the hotel's rules for prostitutes, she had to leave, whatever deal the two had agreed on had broken down. She recalled that the man told her he had been drunk when they discussed the price. He countered with an offer of 50,000 pesos, or about $30.
Disgusted with such a low offer, she pressed the matter. He became angry, ordered her out of the room and called her an expletive, she said. She said she was crying at that point and went across the hall, where another escort had spent the night with a second U.S. man from the same group. Both women began trying to get the money.
They knocked on the door but got no response. She threatened to call the police, but the man's friend begged her not to, saying they did not want trouble. Finally, she said, she left to go home but came across a policeman who was stationed in the hallway and called in an English-speaking colleague.
He accompanied her back to the room, and the dispute escalated. Two other Americans from the club emerged from their rooms and stood guard in front of their friend's locked door. The two Colombian officers tried to argue the woman's case. A hotel security officer arrived. Eventually, the woman lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers. Eager to resolve the matter fast, the U.S. men eventually gave her a combination of dollars and local currency worth about $225, and she left.
It was only days later that she learned that the man had been a Secret Service agent.
The woman veered between anger and fear as she told of her misadventure. "This is something really big," she said. "This is the government of the United States. I have nervous attacks. I cry all the time."
As for cooperating with the U.S. investigators who are seeking to interview as many as 21 different women who they believe may have spent the night with U.S. security officers before Obama's arrival, the woman said she was not interested in that. She said she was planning to leave Cartagena soon.
The Secret Service declined to comment on the woman's account.
© 2013 Star Tribune