Washington: The US Secret Service was warned about gatecrasher couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi attempt "to get close to the Obamas" long before they shocked the world by illegally attending the White House state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a media report has said.
The Salahis shocked the White House by entering President Barack Obama's first State Dinner on November 24 last year uninvited, and the breach was discovered only when they posted their pictures on social networking sites.
39 year-old Greg Woodell, the Salahis’ former limousine driver, and Rachel Harshman, once a close friend of Michaele Salahi, allege that they crashed the presidential inauguration, according to Washington Life Magazine.
According to Woodell and Harshman, the publicity seeking couple placed a fake pass in the window of their white Lincoln limousine to get into a restricted area during the inauguration on January 20, 2009, the report in the premier lifestyle magazine said.
The limo pass, which has been taken as evidence by the Secret Service, shows a presidential seal and the words ‘Official Presidential Inaugural 2009 Vehihcle (sic)’ with the word "vehicle" misspelled.
Woodell claims that Tareq Salahi produced the pass on his home computer, photo-shopping the presidential seal onto the pass.
Woodell said he warned the government about the couple. "I went to the Secret Service on four separate occasions and warned them about Tareq and Michaele," Woodell said.
"We told them that they wanted to get close to the Obamas and that this would end up real messy unless they did something," Woodell was quoted as saying by the Magazine.
Harshman backed Woodell’s claim that he had warned the Secret Service about the Salahis'. Harshman said she asked Woodell to call the Secret Service last May and give their accusations, which included claims of credit card fraud, Tareq carrying a concealed weapon often, and in several cases, appropriating the names, identities and credit histories of several dead people, the lifestyle magazine reported.
Woodell, who took up the job with the Salahis in January 2009 and quit in May, said the Secret Service agent would not identify himself on the four separate calls, which Woodell said he made in June, July, August and October.
On request by a reporter, Woodell said he has since attempted to request his home phone records as proof that he had made the warning calls to the Secret Service, but was told by a Verizon representative after being put on hold that he would need "a court order" to see his itemised home call records.
"I’ve met with the Secret Service on two separate occasions and told them that we called them to warn them, and they just nodded their heads and said nothing," Harshman, an equestrian who lives in Middleburg, was quoted as saying by the Washington Life Magazine.
Woodell also said the couple claimed to have met the President.
"Tareq told me on numerous occasions that President Obama gave him four choices of ambassador, and that he was the United States ambassador to Palestine,” Woodell said.
The Salahi couple earlier this week was subpoenaed by the US House Committee on Homeland Security but invoked their right to remain silent.
First Published: Sunday, January 24, 2010, 16:16