According to The Huff Post, a dozen Secret Service agents who were sent to Cartagena, Colombia to provide security for President Barack Obama at an international summit have been relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct.
A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity, specified the number of agents sent home at 12.
However, the agency was not releasing the number of personnel involved.
Agency spokesman Edwin Donovan told the BBC the agents had been replaced and Mr Obama’s security would not be affected.
“The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously,” Donovan said. “These personnel changes will not affect the comprehensive security plan that has been prepared in advance of the President’s trip.”
In a statement, Mr Donovan said an investigation had been launched.
“There have been allegations of misconduct made against Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia prior to the President’s trip,” he said.
“Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty, and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel.”
At least one agent was suspected of involvement with prosititutes.
The Washington Post involved in the investigation Ronald Kessler, a former reporter and author the book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.”
Kessler said he learned that a dozen agents had been removed from the trip. He also added that soliciting prostitution is considered inappropriate by the Secret Service, even though it is legal in Colombia when conducted in designated “tolerance zones.” Moreover several of the agents involved are married.
The Secret Service agents were staying at Cartagena’s Hotel Caribe, which is also hosting members of the White House staff and press corps during the summit, reports Yahoo!.
A hotel employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the agents arrived at the beachfront hotel about a week ago. He added that the agents were drinking heavily during their stay.
The employee said the agents left the hotel Thursday, a day before Obama and other regional leaders arrived for the weekend summit.
President Obama attended a leaders’ dinner Friday night at Cartagena’s historic Spanish fortress and was due to attend summit meetings with regional leaders Saturday and Sunday.
More than 30 world leaders are in the Colombian port city for the summit, which will see talks on economic policy and trade.
The incident threatened to overshadow Obama’s economic and trade agenda.
According to the BBC, even before the incident with the agents, the summit seemed likely to be an awkward one for the US government, with debates on the legalisation of drugs and sanctions against Cuba promised.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa boycots the summit because of Cuba’s exclusion. The attendance of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in doubt.
Earlier, Colombian police announced there had been two small explosions in Cartagena, but they caused no casualties or damage.
According to officials the explosions followed at least one other blast in Bogota near the US embassy.