In Miami and Ohio, according to sworn affidavits by several agents, Secret Service supervisors brought professional strippers into the offices. In Miami, Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Kippenberger reportedly permitted a male stripper into Secret Service offices for a female employee's bridal shower. The incident might have passed unnoticed had it not been for Kippenberger's prior refusal—on security grounds—to allow another agency employee to bring in a guest to organize games for her bridal shower. The incident brought a swarm of inspectors from Washington, and Kippenberger, sources say, was given a two-week suspension. He chose to take it at the end of the year, during the Christmas holidays, just before he retired. Kippenberger did not return phone calls. In Columbus, Ohio, Special Agent-in-Charge Irwin Cohen allegedly paid for a stripper from the Strip-a-Gram agency (motto: "You've been strip-a-grammed!") into the Secret Service office there to celebrate the birthday of another agent. Penny Steward, who ran the now defunct striptease service, recalls being whisked in and out of the federal building. "I'm sure we weren't supposed to be there," Steward recalls. Someone in Cohen's office sent pictures of the incident—obtained by U.S. News—to service headquarters, sources say, but no action was taken. Cohen declined to comment to U.S. News except to say "those things were discussed years ago."
What is most disturbing to many current and former Secret Service employees is when agents or officers violate the fundamental trust underlying their jobs.
Two years ago, Michael Cohen, a veteran agent mentoring a group of rookie agents in the Philadelphia office, embezzled some $ 2,800 from the Secret Service in two incidents. According to court documents and an interview with prosecutors, Cohen claimed to be a couple of thousand dollars short on a house-closing payment; when agents turned over $ 3,173 seized in a criminal investigation, Cohen kept some $ 2,000 and faked a $ 1,159 receipt for the balance. The case troubled prosecutor Amy Kurland. "He was so cavalier about taking $ 2,000," recalls Kurland. "Somebody who does that so easily is not someone who hasn't done that before. It wasn't a one-time, spur-of-the-moment, take-the-opportunity kind of theft." According to court testimony and an interview with Cohen's attorney, when Cohen was drawing in one of the other young agents into his scam, and the agent expressed concerns, Cohen said, "This is the way we did it all the time in Kansas City." Cohen drew a 33-month prison term. He is free pending appeal.
In October 2000, based on information from a confidential informant, two Secret Service agents were criss-crossing Miami-area streets, monitoring a pair of thieves as they methodically ripped off cash from ATM machines. At the end of the day, it came time to make the arrests. But the agents had a dilemma: how not to blow the cover of their informant, who was accompanying the thieves. According to court documents and interviews with attorneys, the agents decided to allow the informant to run away, giving the appearance of an escape. That's what they did. But when the agents reported the case to the U.S. attorney's office, they told prosecutors there were three ATM thieves, not two. A possible motive: James Smith, a high-ranking officer in the agency's Miami office, pocketed $ 1,309 of the cash nabbed from the ATM thefts, perhaps the informant's share. Prosecutors began investigating. The agents' story soon unraveled. The prosecutors were forced to void the convictions of the ATM thieves. Earlier this year, Smith got five months' prison time.
With their jobs providing ready access to cash, temptation isn't far away for Secret Service agents. Office funds meant to pay confidential informants was an obvious lure for William Ebert, a career agent who by the early 1990s had worked his way up through the ranks to a critical posting: head of the Secret Service's counterfeiting division. This was back when "supernotes," high-quality counterfeit bills, were beginning to show up in quantity around the country, eluding the best detection efforts. Ebert got tripped up in a scheme in which he was submitting phony vouchers and pocketing money meant for confidential informants and others. He had been buying expensive airline tickets and then getting refunds; double-billing on other tickets; and claiming phony payments to informants, in the United States and overseas. Ebert was sentenced to five months in prison followed by home confinement. He agreed to pay $ 29,900 in restitution and received a five-month prison term.