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A former adviser to the Prime Minister, now under scrutiny by the RCMP, bought a downtown Ottawa condominium with a former prostitute who was convicted of numerous offences in the United States, including money laundering, public records show.

Bruce Carson began his relationship with Barbara Lynn Khan in 2006, around the time he began advising Stephen Harper in his capacity as Prime Minister, according to a source who knows Ms. Khan.

Mr. Carson was a senior adviser to Mr. Harper, working on sensitive issues ranging from Afghanistan to the federal budget to climate change.

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But in recent weeks questions have multiplied about how a man with five criminal convictions, who once went bankrupt and suffered years of debt problems, could have been welcomed into the centre of government power.

Now, after Mr. Harper called in the RCMP to investigate allegations of improper lobbying by Mr. Carson, The Globe has learned that he was in a relationship with a former U.S. felon while serving in the Prime Minister's Office.

It was Mr. Carson's relationship with another sex worker that first landed him under the glare of the RCMP. More than two weeks ago, the PMO contacted the Mounties after they discovered the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network was investigating alleged lobbying Mr. Carson performed on behalf of a company with ties to Michelle McPherson, a former prostitute who also owns a house with the 66-year-old policy adviser.

It's not clear whether officials were made aware of Mr. Carson's relationship with Ms. Khan when he was approved to work in Mr. Harper's office in 2006, or any time during his tenure.

Several sources who have been interviewed for security clearances, both for themselves and others, noted this week that CSIS agents had pressed about such issues, and asked if there was anything in the subject's past that might make them vulnerable to blackmail. Neither Mr. Carson nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

Reached Thursday night, Ms. Khan said her relationship with Mr. Carson was long over, but she did not specify when it ended. Ms. Khan and Mr. Carson purchased their condominium in November, 2009, some eight months after he left the Prime Minister's Office to head up the Canada School of Energy and the Environment.

Ms. Khan said that the condominium at 500 Laurier Avenue West - a building where at least three members of Parliament stay when the House of Commons is sitting - isn't exactly what it looks like "on paper."

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She added, before hanging up: "I don't think I should talk about Bruce, I'm sorry."

The 43-year-old Ms. Khan, who was born Barbara Lynn Welter, was raised north of Toronto in the town of Holland Landing. She attended high school in the nearby town of Bradford and worked as a clerk in a convenience store.

But by the late 1990s, Ms. Khan and her husband, Saleemudeen Khan, had settled in Salisbury, N.C., population 27,000. From there, the couple, as well as others, launched a wide-scale prostitution service, soliciting men in pornographic magazines and dispatching sex workers across the state, according to a 2004 indictment.

To paying customers in cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh, Ms. Khan was known as "Essa," one of seven people that operated the service, which charged as much as $3,000 per night. The prostitution ring, which went by names such as Intimate Encounters and Sugar Shack, provided prostitutes to men in houses and hotel rooms until it was brought down by a local sheriff's office and federal authorities in the early 2000s.

Ms. Khan was convicted in 2003 of maintaining a bawdy house, as well as aiding and abetting prostitution. A year later, she was convicted of the more serious federal offence of money laundering. After being sentenced to 12 months and given credit for the time she had already served in jail, she was deported back to her native Canada around 2005. Her husband, Mr. Khan, was extradited from Gatineau, Que. to face charges in the United States. In a 2004 judgment concerning Mr. Khan's bail, Judge Jean-Pierre Plouffe described the tactics of the prostitution ring: "fear and intimidation were used with customers who failed to pay or were deemed to have been too rough with the prostitutes. In that regard, the group would commit home invasions and steal goods therein."

It's not clear how Ms. Khan met Mr. Carson. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one person close to Ms. Khan said she struck up her relationship with Mr. Carson in 2006. The source close to Ms. Khan said there was some discussion about a possible wedding in Mexico with Mr. Carson. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Mr. Carson's other call-girl associate, Ms. McPherson, also mentioned that she planned on marrying Mr. Carson.

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