U.S. aid official linked to call-girl ring resigns

Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:54pm EDT

WASHINGTON, April 27 (Reuters) - A senior State Department official in charge of foreign aid who had used an escort service owned by a woman charged with running a prostitution operation abruptly resigned on Friday, ABC News reported.

Randall Tobias, a deputy secretary of state and the first head of U.S. foreign assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "that he must step down" for personal reasons, the State Department said in an announcement.

The department's announcement did not elaborate.

But ABC News reported that Tobias, whose resignation was effective immediately, said he had called an escort service several times "to have gals come over the condo to give me a massage."

The escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, is owned by Jeane Palfrey, who has been called the "D.C. Madam," and faces federal charges of running a prostitution operation in the Washington area from 1993 through August 2006.

Tobias, 65, who is married, said there had been no sex, and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages, ABC reported. His mobile telephone number was among the thousands in Palfrey's records, which she gave to ABC News, the network said.

In an interview to be aired on ABC's "20/20" program on May 4, Palfrey said she intends to call on Tobias and other prominent clients to testify at her trial, ABC said.

"I'm sure as heck not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, four to eight years, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC News.

Palfrey insists she ran a legal sexual fantasy business, ABC said. If any of the women who were working for her had sex, she said they did so in violation of her rules and without her knowledge, the network said.