Prostitution is often described as the oldest profession. If that’s true, thievery must be the second-oldest profession. As long as people have been making money, there have been other people eager to steal it.

Scam Scenario: Create a Catch-22 Situation

It was only a matter of time before clever criminals figured out a way to combine the temptations of the flesh with theft. The scam they developed – which is not new, but which continues to trap clearance-holders, among others – goes something like this: man searches online for local sex worker; man locates advertisement for sex worker; man contacts sex worker and is told to procure a hotel room where the sex worker can meet him; man and sex worker meet at said hotel room, but before business can be consummated a knock at the door occurs; man answers door, at which point one or more armed individuals force their way inside the hotel room, rob the man of all valuables, and flee with their sex worker accomplice. 

What makes this scam so pervasive is that it works well. And the reason it works well is because it forces the victim into a catch-22 situation: by calling the police, he admits to having committed a crime of his own. 

Except for Nevada, Prostitution is a Misdemeanor Crime

All jurisdictions of which I am aware (except parts of Nevada) treat the solicitation of prostitution as a misdemeanor crime – definitely not a felony – and thus in order for police to make an arrest, the crime generally must have occurred in their presence or an arrest warrant must be obtained. 

Under these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that an arrest warrant would be sought, much less charges filed. It’s safe to say that law enforcement is far more interested in prosecuting violent crimes like robbery than they are in dissuading victims from coming forward under the threat of a petty misdemeanor. But many victims in such circumstances don’t know this or don’t want to take the gamble that calling the police will result in others, such as a spouse, finding out about the incident. This creates a veritable breeding ground for repeat crimes of a similar nature. 

Discretion and Risk management Can Lead to Trouble

The prostitution-turned-robbery scam entraps a wide cross-section of the folks – certainly not just clearance holders. But in my experience, clearance holders with a predilection toward solicitation of prostitution (anecdotally a large number based on the volume of cases we see) are more inclined to seek out the comparatively “safer” arrangement of meeting a sex worker at a hotel than picking one up, for example, walking the streets. It is ironically that effort at discretion and managing risk – hallmarks of the type of people the government prefers conducting its classified business – that winds up getting them into trouble. 

Options to Undo the Career Damage

To be clear, the alternative is not trolling the boulevard for a “Pretty Woman” encounter. You’re just as likely to get robbed that way or caught up in other dangerous scenarios as you are by soliciting a prostitute online. The alternative – and I’m not judging – is to assume that any such encounter will result in a robbery, arrest, or irreversible career destruction and resist the urge to put yourself in that situation. If, however, you’ve already made the mistake and are facing the prospect of a security clearance denial or revocation as a result, understand that with the right defense and an experienced attorney your career may still be salvageable. Winging a defense on your own only compounds the prior bad decision(s). 

This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at