Scandal halts socialite’s climb
By ALLEN G. BREED, TAMARA LUSH and DONNA CASSATA Associated Press November 15, 2012 2:40AM
Jill Kelley leaves her home Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 in Tampa, Fla. Kelley is identified as the woman who allegedly received harassing emails from Gen. David Petraeus' paramour, Paula Broadwell. She serves as an unpaid social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where the military's Central Command and Special Operations Command are located. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:31PM
TAMPA, Fla. — Jill Kelley’s attempt to climb the Tampa social ladder — the rungs of which included some high-ranking military officials — has come to an ignominious halt. Accounts of lavish parties at her bay front mansion have been replaced by reports of her family’s financial woes and other dirty laundry, and claims that she traded on her acquaintance with David Petraeus to try to further lucrative business dealings. Now, even her “Friends of MacDill” Air Force base access pass has been unceremoniously revoked.
The tangled web enveloping the daughter of Lebanese refugees, her twin sister, former CIA chief Petraeus, and Marine Gen. John Allen, who succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan, has spread to include questions about a cancer charity Kelley and her doctor-husband, Scott, founded.
Although Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell, was the immediate cause of his downfall, Kelley and her relations with the Tampa base and the U.S. Central Command have surfaced as a sort of connective tissue for the growing scandal.
On Wednesday, a New York businessman said Kelley was introduced to him at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August as someone whose friendship with Petraeus would help facilitate a no-bid deal with South Korea on a coal-gasification project. She would supposedly be in a position to help broker the billion-dollar deal directly with the Korean president, and expected a 2 percent commission, said Adam Victor, president and chief executive officer of TransGas Development Systems.
Kelley is an honorary consul for South Korea, a ceremonial position, and got diplomatic plates for her car. But after flying Kelley to New York to discuss how she could help, Victor says he concluded that she had little to offer in the way of deal-making expertise or connections with Korean leaders.
The AP also learned Wednesday that Kelley attended an FBI “Citizens’ Academy” last year. It was Kelley’s complaints to an FBI agent about alleged threats from Broadwell that led to the general’s resignation last week and has sidelined Allen’s nomination to become the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe.
The agent was Frederick W. Humphries, 47, a veteran counterterrorism investigator in the Tampa office, and he was among the FBI employees Kelley met during the academy, which lasted from Sept. 13 to Nov. 30, 2011, the AP learned.
Both Petraeus and Allen have been guests at the Kelleys’ 5,000-square-foot home on Bayshore Boulevard, which records show they purchased in 2004 for about $1.5 million. Jill Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, also lives there.
The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath brick Colonial with its stately white columns is on the main parade route for the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Tampa’s answer to Mardi Gras. And the couple soon gained a reputation for their sumptuous and well-attended affairs.
Jill Kelley, 37, and her husband — a cancer surgeon — are members of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club.
The relationship between the Kelleys and Petraeus began in late 2008, when he came to MacDill to assume command of CENTCOM. The couple threw a welcome party for him, and he reportedly watched his first Gasparilla pirate parade from the Kelleys’ lawn.
Hundreds of pages of court files in numerous cases portray the occupants of 1005 Bayshore Boulevard as both litigious and financially strained.
The Kelleys’ investment in a Tampa office building went sour when a $28,000-a-month tenant balked at payment because of problems with the air conditioning system. The couple later defaulted on the mortgage, and the property went into foreclosure.
An attorney who represented the Kelleys in that case, Barry Cohen, ultimately became the target of a lawsuit over his legal fees. Chase Bank sued Scott Kelley over a $25,880.56 unpaid credit card bill.
Meanwhile, Khawam, Kelley’s twin, has had legal troubles of her own.
She sued Cohen’s firm, where she was an attorney, claiming sexual harassment by the chief financial officer.
In court responses, Cohen said Khawam “has a judicially documented recent history and continuing propensity for the commission of perjury.” He cited a court filing in the District of Columbia that described Khawam as having a “willingness to say anything, even under oath, to advance her own personal interests at the expense of ... others.”
Khawam, who earned $270,822 in 2010, according to a court filing, has filed for bankruptcy.
In 2005, the Kelleys established Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation Inc., with themselves and Khawam as its sole directors, according to the Florida Department of State. Its mission statement says the organization, which was based out of the Kelley home, was created to “conduct research studies into efforts to discover ways to improve the quality of life of terminally-ill adult cancer patients.”
In 2007, the last year for which it filed paperwork, the foundation reported revenues of $157,284 to the Internal Revenue Service, all from direct donations, according to its tax filing. The document lists expenses totaling precisely the same amount, including $43,317 for meals and entertainment, $38,610 for travel, $25,013 in legal fees, $8,067 for supplies and $5,082 in phone bills.
The filing claims $58,417 of its expenses went toward program services, but it’s unclear what those services entailed.
Christopher Pietruszkiewicz, dean of the Stetson University Law School and expert on non-profits and taxation, said the foundation’s filing “raises a lot more questions than it does provide answers.”
“I’m not sure that we can come up with any conclusions about how the money was spent by the organizers of the charitable organization, but it does give us a sense about how $157,000 was spent,” he said. “And I do think it raises some issues that either the Internal Revenue Service or the State of Florida may be interested in looking at.”
Obama: No evidence
of security risk
Responding warily at his White House press conference to his administration’s sudden sex scandal, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he’s seen no evidence that national security was damaged by the Petraeus revelations.
“I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security,” Obama said at his first post-election news conference.
As for the FBI’s handling of the matter, Obama said: “My expectation is that they follow the protocols that they’ve already established. One of the challenges here is that we’re not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that’s been our practice.”