​The case of Marines gone wild in Bogotá not yet resolved

Generic image of a Marine colonel in battle dress taken from a Department of Defense handout photo.
Generic image of a Marine colonel in battle dress taken from a Department of Defense handout photo.

The U.S. military has yet to resolve what to do about three married Marine officers who were part of a pub crawl in Bogotá that involved prostitutes, drugs and the theft of government property while on overseas assignment for the U.S. Southern Command.

“The case is not closed out yet because the officers were ordered to show cause at a Board of Inquiry,” according to Gina Levy, a spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Forces Command. “The boards will run consecutively; the last of which should be completed at the end of January.”

​The Miami Herald reported exclusively about the episode in May after obtaining a copy of an internal investigation into the wild night in February. The trio ventured into an off-limits, working-class section of Bogotá, violated a 1 a.m. curfew and brought women back to their rooms at the business conference hotel.

At least two of the officers blacked out in their rooms, apparently in the company of two local women, while another officer drew cash advances off his U.S. government travel card and brought two prostitutes to his room, according to the report. Subsequently, someone stole government-issued phones and a laptop as well as some personal property and cash.

Some of the Feb. 3-4 activity was captured on hotel security cameras. The three officers walked four women through the hotel lobby at about 4:30 a.m., past fellow Marine officers who were mustering for a van ride to the airport at the end of the conference.

The original report: “Marines are drugged, robbed after Bogotá pub crawl and could face charges”

Levy did not elaborate on who appointed a Board of Inquiry, a military panel that provides an officer an opportunity to defend their commission by explaining why they should not be ejected from military service.

Nor was she able to say where the first such board was held, in the case of Maj. Andrew L. Mueller, although she confirmed it took place in December.

Pentagon regulations show that, unless someone successfully invokes national security, the boards are open to media coverage.

B​ut Levy said by email Saturday that the other two officers in the case, Marine Col. Roger T. McDuffie and Maj. Mauricio Saenz would have their boards at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 8-12 and at Parris Island, South Carolina, Jan. 22-24, respectively.

Until the episode McDuffie, a Harrier pilot, served as the chief of operations at Southcom’s U.S. Marines affiliate, known as MARFORSOUTH. Saenz was an exercise planner, and Mueller was described as a theater security cooperation planner.

After all three inquiries are complete, she said, “The board will make a recommendation via the chain of command to the office of the Secretary of the Navy at which time the determination will be final.”