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Prostitution ring suspected at firehouses

D.C. fire officials are investigating whether department employees have been running a prostitution ring out of several of the city's firehouses.

"The allegation is being taken seriously. It is being investigated at this time," said Battalion Chief Kenneth Crosswhite, a spokesman for Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin.

Chief Crosswhite said no action has been taken against any employee in connection with the investigation. He would not say how many people are under investigation or identify the firehouses where they were stationed.

He declined to comment further on the investigation, saying he wanted to ensure a "fair and equitable process for all our employees."

Sources close to the investigation told The Washington Times that as many as a dozen employees stationed with at least four fire companies citywide are being investigated for involvement in the prostitution ring.

The sources say the ring has been referred to as "D.C. Fems" - a play on the acronym for the city's Fire and Emergency Medical Services department. The sources say investigators are looking into whether female emergency medical technicians performed sex acts for money on men, including male fire department employees, in the bunkhouses of fire stations since late last year.

Sources say the investigation is also looking at whether a male fire officer might have also been involved in coordinating the operation.

The sources say fire officials learned of the ring during a criminal investigation last month of claims that a sergeant exposed himself to a female emergency medical technician. Sources said that incident occurred July 30 in the lounge area of Engine 8 in the 1500 block of C Street Southeast.

Sources say Engine 8 is not among the stations being investigated.

Chief Rubin put the sergeant accused of exposing himself on administrative leave after the incident was reported, and the sergeant soon after resigned from the department.

"The D.C. Fire and EMS Department will never, ever tolerate this kind of behavior from any of its members," Chief Rubin said at the time.

The fire chief on Monday announced that the fire department had partnered with the Metropolitan Police Department to form an internal affairs task force to check into claims of unethical or criminal activity by fire department employees. Sources said the formation of the unit was, in part, a response to the prostitution claim.

Chief Rubin said in a statement that he formed the unit "after becoming aware of a number of apparently unrelated, yet disturbing, incidents involving employees."

"I could not in good conscience allow recent allegations of employee misconduct to continue without taking swift and decisive action," he said.

Sources said the investigation of the reputed prostitution ring focuses on Engine 27, at 4201 Minnesota Ave. NE. The station bills itself on its Web site, at www.27engine.com, as "DCFD's busiest single house."

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