US drug enforcement head retires after sex scandal

2015-04-22 14:54
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 12 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 12 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to retire, an official said on Tuesday, following a scandal involving drug agents attending orgies with cartel-hired prostitutes abroad.

Michele Leonhart, 59, head of the anti-drug trafficking law enforcement agency, is retiring in mid-May, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

The DEA came under intense criticism following a Justice Department report at the end of March that found agents attended orgies with prostitutes they should have known were hired by a drug cartel.

The sex parties reportedly took place in Colombia.

Agents attended the parties hosted at government-leased headquarters over the course of several years, the report said.

Clashing with the president

Some of Leonhart's positions on drug enforcement had long been in conflict with those of Obama.

But it seems the key factor in her decision to step down is management of the prostitution scandal.

Seven agents who admitted to the accusations were given suspensions of two to 10 days.

The report into the behaviour of federal agents was commissioned after a scandal in the US Secret Service saw agents there hire prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.

The scandal prompted congressional hearings by irate lawmakers.

Leonhart had also broken with the White House on marijuana policy.

She was against moves by states like Colorado and Washington to legalise its use, even as President Barack Obama said they should be allowed to go forward, the New York Times said.

She also resisted a push to reduce penalties for its use and distribution.

The Times said her retirement could ignite a congressional battle on who to nominate to take her place.

Some liberal Democrats are calling on Obama to name an administrator who backs a change in policy on marijuana, and conservative lawmakers opposing such a move, the Times said.

Holder hailed Leonhart's achievements as a law enforcer and her leadership of the DEA since 2007.

"As the first woman ever to reach the rank of Special Agent in Charge, she was a trailblazer for equality and an inspiration to countless others," Holder wrote.

Holder sent a note to the Justice Department's 113 000 employees earlier this month reminding them not to consort with prostitutes.

After word broke of Leonhart's resignation announcement, some members of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee welcomed the news, the Washington Post reported.

"With the opportunity now for fresh leadership, we are hopeful that the DEA can restore itself to an agency of distinction and excellence," said Chairperson Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from the western state of Utah, and ranking Democrat Elijah E Cummings, who comes from the eastern state of Maryland.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.