On November 8, the Department of Justice announced allegations against three individuals who allegedly operated “sophisticated high-end brothels in greater Boston and northern Virginia” (Fairfax and Tysons). You may be thinking “What does this have to do with security clearances?” Or, if you are *ahem* personally familiar with the situation, you may be thinking “%^*#. Is this going to cost me my clearance?”

The latter camp may not be a small one, according to the DOJ Complaint Affidavit, which alleges that customers include, among other professions, politicians, military officers, government contractors who possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, business executives, technology company executives, scientists, and accountants.

Whether you’re intimately involved (pun intended) or just a curious Carol, here’s the deal: buying or selling sex generally raises concerns under Guidelines D (Sexual Behavior), J (Criminal Conduct), and/or E (Personal Conduct). And, as always, every case is different, but there are common themes that may make the situation worse or may make it a little better.


  • Evidence of therapy and compliance with treatment for any related mental health diagnosis
  • Infrequency of the conduct
  • Being open about the issue with those close to you
  • Anonymity/not sharing personal details with sex workers
  • Distance in time from the incident(s)
  • The incidents occurred under unique circumstances


  • Infidelity
  • Refusal to inform a partner or spouse of the infidelity
  • If the sex worker(s) were foreign nationals
  • If personal information was disclosed
  • Failure to take responsibility


Applicant’s contention that he is not participating in prostitution brings to mind a Latin phrase, “res ipsa loquitur,” i.e., the thing speaks for itself. He paid money to engage in casual, sexual encounters. Despite his claim to the contrary, the routine practice of paying a fee to remove random women from bars and then later on that same occasion engage in sexual activity with them is a form of prostitution.

  • Arguing that you were merely the victim of “flirty” sex workers when there were multiple similar incidents

These are not exhaustive lists and no two cases are the same. It is important to look at and be prepared to discuss all of the circumstances around the decisions made and actions taken, the impacts of those decisions and actions, and the choices one has made since then. There are no sure fixes when it comes to allegations of paying for sex, but it is not impossible to overcome.


The above content is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The handling and outcome of any legal matter depends on varying factors unique to each matter, and results cannot be predicted or guaranteed. Do not act upon information without seeking legal counsel.

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Elisabeth Baker-Pham is an attorney at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch (KCNF) and co-chair of KCNF’s security clearance practice. Baker-Pham advises applicants through the clearance process and represents federal employees and contractors whose clearances have been threatened or suspended, or whose suitability for federal employment has been challenged. Baker-Pham also contributed to the firm’s most recent edition of its long-running book, Security Clearance Law and Procedure. You can read more about KCNF’s security clearance practice and publications at clearancelawyers.com.