WASHINGTON — Two Chicago-based air marshals are at the center of a spicy sex scandal involving prostitution, and another one is in trouble for possibly faking a workers’ compensation claim.
The alleged misconduct was a focus of a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Thursday, which actually was quite dry given the salacious material at issue.
The scheme unraveled because video of the two agents having sex with prostitutes surfaced in an unrelated probe of a fraudulent disability claim out of the Chicago Federal Air Marshal Service office. The names of the air marshals were not used in the hearing because of the ongoing investigation.
Last March, an air marshal said he hurt his shoulder on the job. Another agent showed investigators video of that marshal not at work when the alleged injury took place.
But here’s where the big trouble, worthy of a congressional hearing, was discovered. In the course of viewing video about the workers’ comp marshal, the investigators also stumbled on sex videos starring the two other agents.
At issue, according to testimony at the hearing and a person familiar with investigation: the air marshals pretended to be pornography producers and used their government-issued phones to videotape their sexual encounters with prostitutes.
They used the website Backpage.com to find the women.
By July, one agent resigned, and the two others were indefinitely suspended without pay, lawmakers were told at the hearing.
Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, pressed Federal Air Marshal Service Director Roderick Allison over whether the men will be prosecuted.
“Don’t know,” Allison said.
Chaffetz pushed Allison for more details.
Said Allison, “They must have thought it was OK and must have thought they weren’t going to get caught.”
The Intercept, which first reported the allegations on Wednesday, said the incident took place when the Chicago marshals were in Europe.
Air marshals have top-secret security clearances. Their main job is to fly incognito on flights to stop any terrorists on board. They are armed.
“Obviously, if these allegations are accurate, they are completely inappropriate for anyone, let alone air marshals charged with securing our skies, and these employees must be held accountable, and I know they will be,” said the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Robin Kelly are on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and both Illinois Democrats quizzed Allison on Thursday.
Afterward Duckworth told me if the misconduct warranted it, she wanted the two marshals prosecuted.
“Because it is from Chicago, we are going to make sure to keep our eyes on it. I mean it’s bad all over the country, but to come out of Chicago is especially disturbing,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth said her understanding was the agents worked out of O’Hare Airport.
I asked Kelly afterward about the insanity of putting porn on a work phone.
“There are rules. And there are people who think the rules don’t apply to them. . . . It makes no sense. You wonder what they were thinking.”
While it’s not clear if they will face charges, the two air marshals are likely to be out of a job.
Said Allison at the hearing, “I am going to take a personal interest to make sure these people are shown the door.”