Secret Service agent kills self amid affair probe
One of the top Secret Service Agents assigned to President Obama's protective detail has apparently taken his own life. Law enforcement sources tell CBS News that Rafael Prieto, an Assistant Special Agent in-Charge in the President's Protective Detail, was found in a car inside a garage at an apartment complex in Northwest Washington D.C. on Saturday.
Prieto was discovered by Secret Service agents after they were not able to reach him by phone. The death is being investigated by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. The Washington D.C. Medical Examiner said the cause of death was still being determined, but a law enforcement source said it appeared to be carbon monoxide poisoning from a running car in the closed garage.
Prieto had been suspended by the Secret Service, pending administrative action. Sources said Prieto's name surfaced as an outgrowth of the internal investigation into allegations that Secret Service agents patronized prostitutes in Columbia while doing advance work for the president's trip there.
Prieto was not a target of that investigation, but came to the attention of investigators when information surfaced that he had engaged in a long term relationship with a foreign citizen that he had not reported to the agency as required by regulations.
The president's protective detail is the most prestigious assignment in the Secret Service. Prieto, as an Assistant Special Agent in-Charge, or ASAC, was one of the key managers of the detail's operations. Prieto had been with the US Secret Service for twenty years.
"Rafael Prieto had a distinguished twenty year career with the Secret Service that was marked by accomplishments, dedication and friendships. The Secret Service is mourning the loss of a valued colleague," the agency said in a statement released to CBS News.
A law enforcement source told CBS News Prieto was not under investigation by the Secret Services Office of Professional Responsibility but rather in the midst of an administrative process to clarify a long, ongoing relationship with a foreigner. The source said that as part of that process, Prieto's security clearance and access to Secret Service facilities had been suspended.
Since the Colombia-prostitution allegations broke, the investigation into the conduct of Secret Service agents while overseas has been the subject of intense media coverage, congressional scrutiny marked by allegations and some political jousting. It has resulted in a probe by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General. The report was given to congressional committee's last week. No public version of the findings has yet been released, but the report did address allegations that agents had repeated, unreported contacts with foreign nationals, in violation of agency regulations.
It is unknown if Prieto's situation was one of those referenced in the report. Congressional sources said that the IG's report found that in two cases subsequent background checks on foreign nationals resulted in "hits" in national security databases.
A law enforcement source told CBS News "suggestions that Rafael Prieto was under investigation for espionage or passing information to a foreign contact are not accurate".
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