WASHINGTON - A senior Secret Service agent who was being investigated by the government for failing to disclose a long-standing relationship with a foreign citizen killed himself last week in Washington, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Rafael Prieto, a married father assigned to the security detail for President Barack Obama, had acknowledged to U.S. investigators that he had been having an affair for years with a woman from Mexico, these people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Prieto's death or the investigation. Prieto's relationship was revealed to Secret Service investigators by an agent who had been entangled in the Colombian prostitution scandal earlier this year, these people say. That agent was concerned that the Secret Service wasn't enforcing its rules consistently.
Secret Service rules require that employees with a security clearance notify the agency about any relationship with a foreign citizen to ensure that the person is not a risk to national security. There is no evidence that Prieto's relationship posed any security threat. Failing to disclose such a relationship would be a violation of the agency's administrative rules, not a crime.
Prieto was serving on the protective detail for Obama, though he was not on duty at the time of his suicide. As recently as 2009, he was identified as the resident agent in charge at the Secret Service's office in White Plains, New York. He had worked for the Secret Service for 22 years. He was 47, according to public records.
Prieto's apparent cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. He was found in his car with the engine running. His death was being investigated by Metropolitan Police in Washington and the medical examiner's office.
"Rafael Prieto had a distinguished 20-year career with the Secret Service that was marked by accomplishment, dedication and friendships," agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said in a statement. "The Secret Service is mourning the loss of a valued colleague."
The Secret Service protects the lives of the president, vice-president and their families, and also investigates counterfeiting, bank fraud, computer hacking and other financial crimes.
The behaviour of Secret Service agents and officers has come under scrutiny since 13 employees were implicated in a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April.
Those employees were in Caribbean resort city in advance of Obama's arrival for a South American summit. After a night of heavy partying in some of Cartagena's bars and clubs, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, back to the where they were staying. The incident became public after one agent refused to pay a prostitute and argued with her in the hotel hallway. Prieto was never in Colombia during the scandal.
Eight of those Secret Service employees have been forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two employees are fighting to get their jobs back.
The scandal prompted Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that barred employees from drinking within 10 hours of the start of a shift or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.