State troopers revealed to have taken sex tourism trips to Southeast Asia
HARRISBURG — Three state police lieutenants — including the former head of the elite detail that guards the Pennsylvania governor — were investigated by the FBI and the state police for their involvement with prostitutes during successive personal vacations to Southeast Asia.
Records in a case pending in federal court in Pennsylvania say the lieutenants all admitted hiring the prostitutes on trips between 2002 and 2008.
No charges were filed. An Associated Press review of the internal state police records shows the supervisors received no significant punishment; a Right-to-Know Law request found no evidence they were discharged or demoted, state police said.
The investigative records were disclosed in an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by retired Cpl. Joe Farthing, a former member of the Executive Service Section, which protects the governor, lieutenant governor and their spouses.
Farthing, who lives in Lancaster, claims state police brass concocted a racially motivated claim that he had improperly milked overtime while guarding then-Gov. Ed Rendell. Farthing is black. He was not implicated in the Asia trips.
Farthing and one of the three, Lt. John Kruse, were the two top-ranking members of the Executive Service Section.
While it's not clear what triggered its interest, the FBI by 2007 was investigating sex tourism trips by Kruse and Lt. Brad Lawver, who worked in legislative affairs. Kruse and Lawver told investigators they had been joined by Lt. Douglas Martin of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, according to state police documents.
The U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg said a federal investigation regarding the Asia sex tourism trips was closed without charges being filed, and prosecutors declined to comment further.
Rendell said he had heard rumors of the prostitution trips “through the grapevine.”
State police concern
The three lieutenants told the FBI that they hired prostitutes in Thailand and Vietnam, according to a February 2009 general investigative report regarding Martin filed by Sgt. Farzad Sharif with the state police's Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards. Kruse and Lawver had just retired.
Court records describe an unspecified number of private trips to Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore that combined tourist outings with hiring prostitutes, in some cases for a week at a time.
Farthing's lawsuit was filed in February 2011, but the detailed disclosures about the lieutenants' sex tourism trips, the alleged abuse of overtime by members of the Executive Service Section and evidence the unit was poorly run emerged in court documents this year. The state Attorney General's Office sought unsuccessfully to have Farthing's case thrown out.
As state police leadership and internal affairs looked into the sex trips, questions about the ages of the prostitutes arose repeatedly. The three state policemen have repeatedly insisted none was underage, records show.
“There was no indication, wherever they went, that there was any children involved, which is what our concern was,” retired state police Maj. Charles J. Skurkis, who headed internal affairs at the time, said in a deposition.
The department's lawyers concluded the men's actions “arguably” violated Thai law. State police disciplinary officer Capt. Francis Hacken's court-martial report for Martin said a customer soliciting a prostitute violates Thai law if the solicitation is done openly or shamelessly and causes a public nuisance.
As the FBI investigation was getting under way, state police received a complaint from another trooper on the governor's detail alleging Kruse and Farthing assigned themselves disproportionate amounts of overtime and accrued it under circumstances in which it was not needed, or when they were not performing work for the pay.
The handling of the Asia sex scandal relates to Farthing's lawsuit because he claims the department was harder on him, a black man, than it was on white employees, including the three lieutenants.
Farthing was pulled from the governor's detail and assigned to duty at the lieutenant's governor's mansion while he was investigated for overtime abuse. He retired about a year later.
Farthing disputes that he abused overtime and claims he was forced to retire in October 2008, believing he had been singled out for punishment because of his race.
State police have denied racial bias in any actions taken against Farthing, but said management of the Executive Service Section has been improved, and the overtime issue has been addressed.
Documents filed in Farthing's lawsuit show that the agency moved to discipline him and Kruse for overtime misuse only after both retired, rendering it meaningless.
Reached at his home outside Lewisberry, Kruse at first denied knowledge of the matter, then declined to comment and referred questions to his lawyer, Jerry Russo, who did not return messages. Martin, who lives in Mechanicsburg, and Lawver, a Lewisberry resident, did not respond to requests for comment.
Farthing's attorney, Harold Goodman, declined to discuss the case. The Attorney General's Office, which represents the state police in the civil case, declined comment.
The overtime allegations against Kruse and Farthing were reviewed for potential criminal violations, but the local prosecutor took a pass. Kruse and Farthing ranked No. 1 and No. 2 within the detail in total overtime from 2002 to 2007, with each collecting well over $200,000.
Kruse was denied an honorable discharge, and an internal state police report issued a few months later said “sustained overtime misconduct” practices would have justified court-martialing him and Farthing.
Kruse had been recommended for a two-rank demotion to trooper, a 25-day suspension and an involuntary transfer. Farthing was recommended for a one-rank demotion and 20-day suspension, according to a declaration by the then-deputy commissioner, John R. Brown.
Reason for abuse
State police found that overtime in the 20-person Executive Service Section fell from $612,000 in 2006 — a busy election year for Rendell, and the year before the overtime abuse investigation began — to $474,000 in 2007 and $346,000 in 2008, when Kruse no longer ran the detail. It skyrocketed in Rendell's final year of 2010, however, to $739,000, and reached $533,000 in 2011.
A good overtime year can yield dividends for the rest of a trooper's life, because pension amounts are based on peak pay years. Farthing retired in October 2008 with a $130,000 lump payment and now has a $72,000 annual pension. Kruse retired in January 2009, collected $84,000 and gets a $45,000 pension.
Lawver and Martin apparently were not investigated for overtime abuse.