Fired General Charged Taxpayers for Visits to ‘Hooker Hill’

Ash Carter’s ‘right hand man’ fraternized at strip clubs in Korea, Rome

Ash Carter, Ron Lewis

Then-U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ron Lewis greets then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2013 / AP

BY:

A former top aide to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter charged taxpayers for $1,700 tabs at strip clubs and then lied about it to investigators, according to findings of an investigation released Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Ronald F. Lewis, U.S. Army, was abruptly fired from his position as special assistant to the secretary of defense last November. An investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general now confirms allegations against Lewis, including a visit to an off-limits club on "Hooker Hill" in Seoul, South Korea, charging taxpayers for $400 bottles of champagne at a strip club in Rome, and making unwanted advances to female subordinates.

Investigators found that Lewis misused his government travel charge card, made false official statements regarding his charge card misuse, and "engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman on multiple occasions, which included patronizing an establishment off-limits to U.S. military personnel, drinking to excess in public, and improper interactions with females."

The New York Times described Lewis as Carter’s "right hand man" who "sees almost every piece of paper that crosses the boss’s desk, including some of the most highly classified intelligence reports produced by the government." Lewis was the most senior military member in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"I have been briefed on the investigation carried out by the Inspector General at my request into the conduct of Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis," Carter said in a statement Thursday. "I understand the IG has referred the matter to the Department of the Army for appropriate action, and I will defer any further comment on the report pending the Army's review."

"As I said when I first learned about allegations of misconduct against Maj. Gen. Lewis and removed him as my Senior Military Assistant, I expect the highest possible standards of conduct from the men and women in this department particularly from those serving in the most senior positions," he said.

"There is no exception," he added.

The inspector general found that Lewis violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice on several occasions. On a trip to South Korea in April 2015 Lewis spent $1,121.25 at a bar in "Hooker Hill" in Seoul, South Korea and then falsely claimed the charges were fraudulent.

"On April 10, 2015, while serving as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense during official travel in Seoul, South Korea, MG Lewis patronized the ‘Candy Bar’ club," the inspector general said. "The Candy Bar club was an establishment in an area of Itaewon, Seoul commonly referred to locally as ‘Hooker Hill.’"

Many bars in Hooker Hill are off-limits to service members because of "their ties to illicit activities, such as prostitution, controlled substances, and underage drinking."

Lewis left an 81 percent tip at the Candy Bar club. He said he did not use the card at the club and reported the charges to Citibank as fraudulent, which removed the charges and issued him a new government travel card.

Lewis visited a strip club in October 2015 while on official travel in Rome. Lewis tried to use his debit card for the $1,755.98 bill, but it was declined. A female employee of the club then escorted him to his hotel room to retrieve his government card from a subordinate to pay the bill.

"The ‘Cica Cica Boom’ club in Rome, [is] an establishment with signage advertising ‘Sexy Show,’ ‘Fans Club,’ and ‘Lap Dance,’" the inspector general said.

Lewis disputed that the Cica Cica Boom was a "gentlemen’s club" or "strip club," asserting it was only a dance club.

"I described the club in great detail to the investigators—a high-end establishment with a respectable clientele that had a DJ, a bar area, and a dance floor where couples were dancing," Lewis told the inspector general. "Yet the [report of investigation] ROI describes the business as a sexually oriented establishment, again casting the worst light possible on my activities."

The inspector general noted that the club’s website says it offers a "floor show, lap dancers," and the "most famous sexy stars of the moment."

The club’s price list "displays a photo of a female wearing a garter belt, lace-topped thigh-high stockings, bare buttocks, and a black Carnivale-style mask," the inspector general said.

"An individual would have to be oblivious to not know or question the number of attractive women trying to get attention and drinks," said an Italian law enforcement official interviewed by the inspector general.

Lewis was also found to have engaged in inappropriate behavior with female subordinates on official trips to Hawaii and Malaysia.

Lewis engaged in "questionable behavior," was "extremely intimate," "chummy," and "did not seem innocent" with a female subordinate on an official trip to Malaysia in November 2015, just before his firing. "One witness told us she had never seen MG Lewis, a married man, act that way ‘with another woman,’" the inspector general said.

During an earlier trip to California, Lewis requested a briefing from a female enlisted service member. When she arrived at his hotel room he greeted her "shirtless and dressed only in gym shorts."

Lewis had worked under Carter since 2010, when he served as Carter’s military assistant when he was undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. He received promotions all the way to lieutenant general after Carter was tapped to serve as secretary of defense.

"I am aware of my mistakes, errors in judgement, and perceptions I may have created," [sic] Lewis told the inspector general in response to their findings in August.

However, Lewis "disagreed with our conclusions, criticized our investigation, pointed to the amount and quality of work he did as the [Special Military Assistant] SMA on these trips, and disputed some of the facts we found," the inspector general said.

The inspector general interviewed 41 witnesses, including Secretary Carter, during its investigation.

Elizabeth Harrington   Email Elizabeth | Full Bio | RSS
Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com. Her email address is elizabeth@freebeacon.com. Her Twitter handle is @LizWFB.

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