Secret Service Do Anything Illegal in Colombia?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 17, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The private affairs of Secret Service agents in Colombia are under scrutiny, after one agent's alleged argument with a prostitute at a hotel.

The woman allegedly refused to leave the agent's hotel room until he paid her $47 for the night, the website reports. Hotel managers called police, who forwarded their incident report to the U.S. embassy.

In all, 11 Secret Service agents, part of an advance team ahead of President Obama's visit to Colombia on Friday, were sent home for alleged "personal misconduct," CNN reports.

But did they do anything illegal?

Not under Colombian law, which generally allows for prostitution, the New York Daily News reports. It's not clear how many Secret Service agents in Colombia were allegedly involved with prostitutes.

Though sex workers are technically limited to "tolerance zones" in a few Colombian cities, local authorities rarely enforce those limits, according to the Daily News.

Americans who solicit adult prostitutes abroad, in countries where they're legal, generally do not face liability in the United States. (Americans who solicit child sex workers, however, have been prosecuted.)

Soliciting a prostitute in Colombia is similar to going to Canada to gamble at age 19, or to Amsterdam to legally smoke marijuana -- though Dutch officials have passed a law that will soon prohibit foreigners from buying pot there.

But the Secret Service Colombia scandal is slightly different, because of the agents' unique roles in presidential security. Agents may have violated the Secret Service's "zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct," the agency's assistant director told CNN.

Five U.S. troops who worked with the Secret Service were also sent home for misconduct. The Uniform Code of Military Justice will determine their fates, CNN reports.

Americans who travel abroad for business may be under similar work-related codes of conduct. The old adage "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" still holds -- but like the Secret Service Colombia scandal, remember that your conduct, while legal, may come back to bite you.

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