Onetime Ash Carter aide Ronald Lewis initially denied “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
The former senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Ash Carter—who was dismissed last November over allegations of sexual misconduct—abused his government travel charge card at strip clubs overseas, the Defense Department inspector general confirmed in a highly anticipated report released on Thursday.
Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Lewis, investigators found, also “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 conduct, which took place in Italy and South Korea, was initially denied by Lewis, who was found to have misled subordinates preparing his expense vouchers and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also was discovered to have signed a document to card issuer Citibank saying that charges on the card from strip clubs were fraudulent.
The investigation’s results substantiating the allegations come only weeks after the Pentagon IG flagged an ongoing larger problem of employees misusing purchase cards at casinos and strip clubs, despite later reimbursing the government. The IG recommended that the Army take disciplinary action against Lewis.
Lewis and his counsel were given the opportunity to review a draft of the IG’s report in July, at which time “he disagreed with our conclusions, criticized our investigation, and disputed some of the facts we found,” wrote Deputy Inspector General for Administrative Investigations Marguerite Garrison. Lewis added, however, that he was "aware of [his] mistakes, errors in judgment, and perceptions [he] may have created."
In traveling with the Defense secretary to Seoul, South Korea, Lewis was found to have visited the Candy Bar club in the “Hooker Hill” section of Itaewon, “off-limits to U.S. military personnel at the time because of its association with illicit activities,” the report said. He put $1,121.25 in expenses from the club on his government charge card, including an 81 percent tip, auditors found.
In Rome, Lewis was confirmed to have visited the Cica Cica Boom club, which posts a sign reproduced in the report offering a “lap dance” and “sexy show.” There he “drank to ‘more than moderation’ for three hours,” investigators wrote, “and then brought a female foreign national escort from the club to the Secretary of Defense’s hallway in the delegation hotel, where he woke up a subordinate in the middle of the night to give him his GTCC to pay his club bill.” That bill was $1,755.98.
These acts were found to violate Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
Lewis was also investigated for a series of complaints from female subordinates suggesting that he may have inappropriately hugged them on repeated occasions, or, in one instance, touched an enlisted woman’s posterior. Investigators were told one woman said the hugs made her uncomfortable because “he gets [in my] space,” the report said. She tried to solve the problem by avoiding the general, she said. “The civilian female staff member told us that she found MG Lewis’ hugs ‘weird and creepy,’ ” investigators wrote.
But the investigation in this area found that Lewis did not violate the military code and that the behavior did not appear to be sexual or directed at only one gender.
Lewis, according to the website Military Corruption, was a “Chicago street kid” whom Ash Carter treated “like a son” and for whom he had big plans.
Asked for comment, Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian said, “The Army only recently received the DoD IG investigation regarding Maj. Gen. Lewis, and is currently evaluating the investigation to determine what administrative or disciplinary actions may be appropriate. The Army takes allegations of misconduct seriously and demands all senior leaders, regardless of rank, uphold the highest standards of moral character and competence."