White House Crashers Notorious Attention Seekers: Sources

Crashers probe may become criminal investigation

Party crashing is nothing new to the Virginia couple accused of crashing the state dinner at the White House, according to people who know them as relentless attention seekers.

"They just want to be famous," said the Washington Post's Roxanne Roberts. "Apparently they got their wish."

The Secret Service may pursue a criminal investigation of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, but events at the security checkpoint may determine whether the security breach is a crime or just an embarrassment. Jim Mackin, an agency spokesman, said the possible turn toward criminal charges is one reason the Secret Service has kept mum about what happened when the Salahis arrived at the checkpoint Tuesday. They were not on the guest list for the dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully falsify statements on matters within the federal government's jurisdiction.

Nobody disputes that the couple, candidates for a reality TV show "The Real Housewives of D.C.," were allowed through security. The Secret Service acknowledges that its procedures weren't followed.

Yet, it remains unclear whether the couple lied to the security officers and, if so, whether they violated federal law.

"As this moves closer to a criminal investigation there's less that we can say," Mackin said. "I don't want to jeopardize what could be a criminal investigation. We're not leaving any option off the table at this point."

Two Secret Service agents reportedly visited the Oasis Winery in Fauquier County to meet with the Salahis, who haven't lived there in years but are involved in an ownership dispute with Tareq Sulahi's parents.

The incident didn't surprise Rachel Harshman, who said she once was one of Michaele Salahi's closest friends.

"I've seen different ways that they get in to places," she said.

Harshman had a falling out with the couple last summer over a charity event run by the Salahis -- America's Polo Cup, which benefits Journey for the Cure.

"Michaele likes to be out there," Harshman said. "She's very excited about wanting to be on the housewives show, so this is just another thing to make herself be out in the public eye, to possibly appear important."

The Salahis' lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying, "My clients were cleared by the White House, to be there." He said more information would be forthcoming.

"They said the reason they were not on the list was that it was a last-minute thing," Roberts said. "They have never acknowledged that they weren't really invited."

McLean Realtor Casey Margeneau spoke to the Sulahis Thursday night and believes the controversy is overblown.

"They said that they had been invited and I said, 'Personally, I don't care,'" he said. "'Whether you were invited or not invited, you were there, and it's not really your issue. If you did get in to the party, then why is that your issue? Why is everybody making such a big deal?'"

Bravo Media has confirmed that Michaele Salahi is being considered as a participant in the upcoming D.C. edition of "Housewives" and on the day of the dinner was being filmed around Washington by Half Yard Productions, the producer of the show.

"Half Yard Productions was told by Michaele and Tareq Salahi that they had been invited to the state dinner," said Abby Greensfelder, of Half Yard Productions. "We took them at their word and filmed their preparations for the event. Half Yard Productions had no part in planning their presence at the event."

It remained unclear how close the Salahis may have gotten to President Barack Obama at the dinner -- none of the photos from the event posted on Michaele Salahi's Facebook page show them with the president. Officials said they couple posed no threat to anyone at the event.

The couple has been in close proximity to Obama in the past, photos show, raising fresh questions about how they have managed to get so near to the president.

One photo, apparently taken in the days before Obama took the oath of office, shows the Salahis in a group shot with Obama and some of the musicians who performed at an inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, including Fergie and will.i.am.

"Lots of my dear friends here including, President OBAMA with MICHAELE, my husband Tareq, The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Will.i.am & Randy Jackson, formerly with JOURNEY the Rock Band who I LOVE!, and now Judge on American Idol," the caption says.

Other photos show the Salahis in the empty, glass-enclosed box from which the Obamas watched the concert and, according to the caption, "backstage with the Secret Service at the Lincoln Memorial during the Presidential Inauguration."

Gregory Woodell, a former chauffeur for the Salahis, said the couple used connections to get close up access to inaugural events.

"He seemed to have a friend in the police department that he was able to call if there was a problem with getting into an event," Woodell said.

Their attempts to seem important prompted Woodell to call the Secret Service. Woodell said he's owed more than $2,500 from the Salahis.

Facebook photos show the couple posing with an array of celebrities and politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, entertainer Donny Osmond, weatherman Willard Scott and music producer Quincy Jones.

"They have a very big personality, and when you have a big personality, anytime you are on top, there are always people who want to push you down," Margeneau said in defense of his friends. "It's just part of the way things are when you're bigger than life, and they live bigger than life. They have a great time."

Last May, Virginia officials issued a warning about Journey for the Cure, cautioning that it was not properly registered and that contributions may be used for non-charitable purposes. Harshman said she's been called by state investigators.

"I did become aware of the investigation, and then the investigator was like, 'This is very serious because we've actually been following them for many years now,'" she said.

According to the Journey for the Cure website, the Salahis have since registered.

The saga will drag on at least until Monday evening, when the Salahis plan to share their side of the story on a cable talk show. Of course.

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this story.

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