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DEA chief to retire amid scandal over 'sex parties'

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is stepping down in mid-May, over revelations about “sex parties” involving prostitutes overseas and misconduct among its agents.

Michele Leonhart, who has worked at the helm of the DEA since 2007, has been under heavy criticism on Capitol Hill since an inspector general report last month documented a series of episodes in which agents hired prostitutes. Agents were found to have had sex parties with women hired by Colombian drug cartels.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Leonhart's pending departure.

Holder made no mention of the recent controversies over the DEA and said Leonhart had informed him she would retire.

“Over the past decade, under her leadership, there have been innumerable instances of the DEA dismantling the most violent and most significant drug trafficking organizations and holding accountable the largest drug kingpins around the world,” he said.

The White House and Congress had signaled their frustrations with the DEA in recent weeks.

Before the announcement that Leonhart would be stepping down, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration continued to “have concerns” about issues cited in the report.

Leonhart testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last Wednesday, telling lawmakers that the “activity” described in the inspector general report “has not and will not be tolerated.”

Afterward, however, the panel announced it had lost confidence in her ability to lead the agency.

On Tuesday, leaders of the committee called her departure appropriate in light of the controversy.

“With the opportunity now for fresh leadership, we are hopeful that the DEA can restore itself to an agency of distinction and excellence,” said Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman and ranking member, respectively.

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