U.S. official resigns amid questions about escort service

ABC says State Department administrator confirmed he was a client but denies sex

April 28, 2007|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Agency for International Development, Randall L. Tobias, resigned abruptly yesterday for what he said were "personal reasons," but an administration official said Tobias' name had come up in an investigation of a suspected Washington prostitution ring.

Last night, ABC News said Tobias had confirmed on Thursday that he was a customer of an escort service.

A woman from Vallejo, Calif., Deborah J. Palfrey, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she operated a call-girl service in Washington, and has threatened on her Web site to sell her client list to raise money for her defense.

ABC News reported that Palfrey had given the network thousands of phone numbers of clients.

In court papers filed April 11 in U.S. District Court here, Palfrey identified an adviser to the Pentagon as "one of the regular customers" of her service. She posted the man's photo from his own Web site and tax records on a house he owns in Washington.

On her Web site, Palfrey asserted that her service, doing business as Pamela Martin and Associates, "functioned as a high-end adult fantasy firm which offered legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior."

Tobias told ABC that he used the service for massages, not sex, according to the network's Web site.

The State Department referred all questions to Tobias' personal office in Indianapolis. There was no reply to a message left there last night.

At his Washington apartment building, the concierge said Tobias was not in.

Tobias, 65, is a former chairman and chief executive of Eli Lilly & Co. and of AT&T International.

He served as the chairman of the board of Duke University from 1997 to 2000.

He was also a major donor to various Republican campaigns.

He held two federal titles. President Bush nominated him in July 2003 to lead a $15 billion program to fight AIDS worldwide. As director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, he held the rank of ambassador.

At the time, some AIDS experts said Tobias did not have much experience with AIDS or Africa.

In January 2006, Bush said he would nominate Tobias to be the administrator of the Agency for International Development. That position gave him the rank of deputy secretary of state.

The White House did not confirm the circumstances of the resignation.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said the president expressed "sadness and disappointment" that Tobias was resigning.

Bush expressed appreciation for Tobias' work here and around the world, Perino said, and "wished his family well in the future."

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