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Obama's secret agent sex scandal stirs media frenzy in Cartagena

Washington, Sun, 22 Apr 2012 ANI
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Washington, April 22 (ANI): A Secret Service sex scandal has sparked media frenzy in Cartagena after scoop-hungry journalists fought all week for the favour of a 42-year-old taxi driver who happened to drive home the prostitute who set the scandal in motion.

Jose Pena, the president of the Hotel Caribe taxi stand, became a celebrity over the weak.

The scandal also spawned X-rated jokes and inspired a spicy song set to a local Caribbean beat, Fox News reported.

Fiercely competitive reporters from tabloids to TV networks accused one another of bidding up Pena's fees. He would disappear for hours in the employ of one or another, the spurned reporters redialing him incessantly, filling his voice mailbox with entreaties.

It was Pena, after all, who led journalists to the whitewashed, two-family house on a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of town where he said the woman lived with her 9-year-old son. And he described how the woman told him a Secret Service agent refused to pay her full fee and locked his door at the five-star hotel the morning of April 12.

"He's the most important man in the world this week," joked fellow taxi driver William Jimenez.

The scandal broke after police and hotel security workers were called into the dispute between the woman and the agent over money.

Soon, 11 agents were headed back to the U.S. to face misconduct charges. Six have since lost their jobs, and the U.S. military is separately investigating 11 servicemen. U.S. investigators have determined that about 20 Colombian women spent the night at the Caribe with members of President Barack Obama's security detail less than 48 hours before his arrival for a summit.

"The secret agents didn't think about Obama. All they thought about was being in bed," said the song taking off on the scandal that got its video release Saturday evening at a Cartagena club.

Several dozen U.S.-based reporters had rushed to the colonial Caribbean port to report on the developing sex scandal, joining those already there to cover last weekend's Summit of the Americas.

They've scoured bars and discotheques that prostitutes frequent, with names like Isis and Elektra, logging hours and downing overpriced cocktails while trying to find at least one of the women who allegedly spent the night with members of Obama's security detail.

It didn't help that Hotel Caribe workers were muzzled by their employer and normally helpful senior Colombian police and government officials also clammed up.

One news outlet eventually published photos, found on Facebook, that it said were of the woman who set off the scandal.

The Facebook page was taken down soon after, but by then reporters had a photo of the bikini-clad woman to help in their search. It was shown to desk clerks, maids and bellhops in hopes they would identify her as having been at the hotel.

Neighbours of the home where Pena took journalists identified the woman as "Dania," a woman in her mid-20s from the Caribbean island of San Andres who abandoned her home Wednesday morning with her 9-year-old son and live-in maid and went into hiding.

Other taxi drivers also tried to cash in on the media frenzy. One tried to charge a reporter eight times the customary fee.

"Pena charged 500,000 pesos (280 dollars) for the same thing," driver Marcos Miranda objected after a two-hour hire before resignedly accepting the equivalent of 30 dollars.

Yet Pena also broke a code of silence that protects sex workers and others, including cabbies, who take a cut of their earnings in exchange for finding clients, several drivers said privately.

Pena sounded distressed Friday in a phone conversation. Colombian prosecutors had called him in for questioning later that morning and he said he was afraid of being thrown in jail.

The woman known has Dania, meanwhile, has retained a lawyer named Marlon Betancourt, who has refused requests by the AP for comment. But he told another news organization that his client expects to sue the Secret Service agent for abusive behavior.

And his client intends to sell her story. (ANI)

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