Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Seeks Answers about Accountability after Marshals Solicited Prostitutes

May 31, 2017
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is seeking information about whether U.S. Marshals who solicited prostitutes while on detail in Mexico ever faced consequences for their actions and whether the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has taken steps to mitigate security risks resulting from that conduct.
 
In his letter to Acting Director David Harlow, Grassley cites concerns raised in a report authored by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.  Marshals engaged in sexual relations with prostitutes in a taxpayer-funded apartment, according to the report.  Following a pattern of unaccountability in the USMS, the chief inspectors involved in this incident allegedly faced only minor consequences.
 
Additionally, the report noted that solicitation of prostitutes can pose serious security risks by exposing those involved to blackmail and manipulation.  Though this behavior is potentially disqualifying for a security clearance, one of the chief inspectors involved still allegedly holds a security clearance and continues to travel to Mexico in an official capacity.
 
“The OIG’s report was provided to this Committee in the midst of numerous allegations of a significant accountability gap within the USMS,”’ Grassley said in his letter.  “If the reports of USMS handling of these allegations are true, they are troubling and send the message to other employees that the agency does not take these matters seriously.”   
 
Grassley is seeking answers to questions about accountability and security risks to law enforcement by June 14.
 
In 2015, Grassley called on the Justice Department, which oversees USMS, to adopt a zero tolerance policy for employees who participate in prostitution following a separate inspector general report revealing that Drug Enforcement Administration employees attended “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels.
 
Full text of the letter follows. The letter and Office of Inspector General’s Report of Investigation can be found here.
 
 
May 31, 2017
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
David Harlow
Acting Director
U.S. Marshals Service                                                                                    
Washington, D.C. 20530-00001                                             
           
Dear Acting Director Harlow:
 
On February 23, 2016, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General concluded that in 2010, two U.S. Marshals Service Chief Inspectors solicited prostitutes while on detail in Mexico and engaged in sexual relations with them in a taxpayer‑funded apartment.[1]  The OIG concluded that the chief inspectors violated Marshals Service policy prohibiting “criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct.”[2]  The OIG has previously noted that Department of Justice employees who engage in prostitution, even in jurisdictions where it is legal, undermine the Department’s ability to effectively combat human trafficking, “a crime that DOJ seeks to eradicate.”[3]   Further, such conduct can pose significant security risks.  “DOJ employees who participate in [] prostitution can be compromised and made vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation, or duress.”[4]   OIG has also found that USMS in the past has failed to report solicitation of a prostitute by an employee oversees to security personnel, even though security personnel believed the behavior was potentially disqualifying for the holder of a security clearance.[5]  
 
The OIG’s report was provided to this Committee in the midst of numerous allegations of a significant accountability gap within the USMS.  Whistleblowers from multiple districts and divisions across the agency have alleged that the USMS does not hold its senior leaders and their friends accountable to the same standard as lower level employees, those not in favor with leadership, and particularly those who have raised issues of waste, fraud, abuse, and other misconduct.  It is alleged that at least one of these chief inspectors continues to travel on TDY to Mexico and continues to hold a security clearance with no requirement to mitigate the potential risks.[6]  Further, whistleblowers allege that the chief inspectors received only a short suspension for this behavior.  This was reportedly the same level of discipline as that imposed on another employee under their supervision and authority who was asked to assist in soliciting and paying one of these prostitutes and who the OIG found to be forthcoming—unlike the chief inspectors, who the OIG found less credible.  If the reports of USMS handling of these allegations are true, they are troubling and send the message to other employees that the agency does not take these matters seriously. 
 
In order to better understand the agency’s practices of holding employees accountable for misconduct and ensuring those employees do not pose unnecessary security risks to law enforcement operations overseas, please respond to the following questions by June 14, 2017.  Please number your answers according to their corresponding questions. 
           
  1. What disciplinary actions has the USMS taken against the chief inspectors in this case, or against any other individual for conduct related to this case? 
 
  1. Did the USMS report these findings to its security personnel?
 
  1. If not, why not?  If so, what steps if any has the USMS taken to mitigate security risks associated with this behavior and to ensure it does not recur?
 
Thank you for you cooperation in this matter.  If you have any questions, please contact DeLisa Lay of my committee staff at (202) 224-5225.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Charles E. Grassley
Chairman
 
cc:        The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
            Ranking Member
 
            The Honorable Jeff Sessions
            Attorney General
            U.S. Department of Justice
 
            The Honorable Michael Horowitz
            Inspector General
            U.S. Department of Justice
 
 
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[1] U.S. Dep’t of Justice Office of Inspector General, Case No. 2015-007158 (Feb. 23, 2016) (see Attachment 1). 
[2] See also 5 C.F.R. § 735.203, defining “notoriously disgraceful conduct” as “conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States.”
[3] U.S. Dep’t of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Review of Policies and Training Governing Off-Duty Conduct by Department Employees Working in Foreign Countries (Jan. 2015), available at: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2015/e152.pdf.
[4] Id.
[5] U.S. Dep’t of Justice Office of the Inspector General, The Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegations by the Department’s Law Enforcement Components at 32 (Mar. 2015), available at: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2015/e1504.pdf.
[6] See id. at 32 (In a prior incident, a USMS employee solicited a prostitute in Thailand.  USMS security personnel, after they were finally notified of this conduct, “required the DUSM to admit the conduct to the DUSM’s spouse in order to mitigate potential security risks, such as potential exposure to coercion, extortion, and blackmail.”).