WASHINGTON (AP) – The investigator who led the Homeland Security Department's internal review of a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents on assignment in Colombia in 2012 has himself resigned over an incident involving a prostitute in Florida, The New York Times reported.
Current and former department officials say that investigator David Nieland left the government in August after refusing to answer questions from the department's inspector general about the Florida incident, the Times said in an article posted its website Tuesday night.
Nieland has told congressional staffers that he was pressured to leave out of the report on the Secret Service scandal that a White House volunteer had brought a prostitute to his room. However, the congressional staffers and the White House have said that no evidence supported that allegation.
Officials briefed on the Nieland investigation said that in May, sheriff's deputies in Broward County, Florida, saw him entering and leaving a building they had under surveillance as part of a prostitution investigation, the Times reported. Deputies later interviewed a prostitute who identified Nieland in a photograph and said he had paid her for sex, according to the newspaper.
Nieland has not been charged. He said in an email that "the allegation is not true" and declined to answer any questions, the newspaper reported. He resigned Aug. 9, citing health problems, and later sent a tweet that his government career had ended, according to the newspaper.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman, William O. Hillburg, confirmed to the Times that Nieland had resigned and that officials had become aware of an incident in Florida that involved one of its employees. Under law, no comment could be offered on a specific case, Hillburg said.
Thirteen Secret Service agents and officers were implicated in a prostitution scandal that arose from preparations for President Barack Obama's trip in April 2012 to the seaside resort of Cartagena, Colombia. They were accused of carousing with female foreign nationals at a hotel where they were staying before Obama's arrival. Nine of the officers and agents eventually left the agency — resigned, forced out or retired.
Nieland, the head of the inspector general's Miami office at the time, led the Homeland Security Department investigation into how the Secret Service handled the scandal. He later told staff members of a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee that he had been asked to delete derogatory information from the 65-page public report issued in September 2012 because it was potentially damaging to the administration two months ahead of the November election, the Times reported.
Nieland told the Senate staffers that the deleted information was that a volunteer member of the White House advance team in Cartagena also had a prostitute in his room, the newspaper said. The subcommittee later said that it had not found any evidence to substantiate that claim. The White House said it had not intervened in the report's preparation and that it had not found evidence to support the allegation against the volunteer, the Times reported.