US agents had prostitute sex parties funded by drug cartels: Watchdog

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Drug Enforcement Administration agents in an unnamed country had alleged "sex parties" with prostitutes funded by local drug cartels over several years, according to a report published on Thursday by the Justice Department's internal watchdog.

The 10 agents - an assistant regional director and nine special agents - had the alleged parties "at government-leased headquarters," and three of the special agents "were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members," according to the report.

After investigation, seven of the agents admitted attending the parties, and were suspended for between two and 10 days.

One special agent was cleared of all wrongdoing, the report said. None of the agents was named in the report.

The findings are part of a investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, which analysed allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct between October 2008 and September 2012.

The Office of the Inspector General declined to confirm where the alleged "sex parties" took place.

The review was sparked by allegations of misconduct by several DEA special agents in Cartagena, Colombia.

It came in the wake of a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents in Cartagena in 2012 that damaged the agency's straitlaced reputation.

The agencies investigated were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Marshals Service.

The report criticised the the ATF, DEA and the Marshals Service for failing to adequately report allegations.

Where there was alleged high-risk sexual misconduct, security personnel at these agencies were not told "until long after they occurred or were never informed, even though such behaviour presents significant security risks," the report said.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz called the allegations regarding the DEA agents "stunning" and urged action.

"We need to hold them accountable and, given the clear evidence in the OIG report, they should be fired immediately," he said.

Inspectors also criticised the FBI and DEA for initially refusing to provide the unredacted information they requested, and then providing information that was "still incomplete."

The DEA declined to comment.

Department of Justice spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the department is already working with the agencies "to ensure a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and misconduct is enforced and that incidents are properly reported."