TAMPA, Fla. – When news vans camped outside her stately home, a Florida socialite tied to the Gen. David Petraeus sex scandal fell back on her informal credentials as a social ambassador for Tampa society and top military brass: She asked police for diplomatic protection.
In a phone call to authorities, Jill Kelley, a party hostess and unofficial social liaison for leaders of the U.S. military's Central Command in Tampa, cited her status as an honorary consul general while complaining about news vans that had descended on her two-story, five-bedroom brick home overlooking Tampa Bay, which was purchased in 2004 for $1.5 million.
"You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well," she told the 911 dispatcher Monday.
Nearly all lines in the increasingly tangled sex scandal involving Petraeus lead back to Kelley, whose complaint about anonymous, threatening emails triggered the FBI investigation that led to the general's downfall as director of the CIA. And now Kelley is in the middle of an investigation of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan over alleged "inappropriate communications" between the two.
Kelley's friendship with Petraeus and his wife began when the general arrived in Tampa about 2008. Kelley and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon, had moved to the area a few years earlier and threw a welcome party at their home, a short distance from Central Command headquarters, introducing the new Central Command chief and his wife Holly to the community, according to staffers who served with Petraeus.
Hundreds of pages of court documents in several lawsuits detail financial troubles for the Kelleys and Jill Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam, who lived with the couple.
Chase Bank sued Scott Kelley in 2010 over a $25,880 unpaid credit card bill, and an investment by the Kelleys in a Tampa office building turned into a dispute with the tenant over $28,000-a-month rent. The couple didn't pay the mortgage and entered into foreclosure.
Attorney Barry Cohen represented the Kelleys in the case, but they turned around and sued him over legal fees, claiming he overcharged them by $5,000. The suit was dismissed, but court documents did not say what happened.
Natalie Khawam worked for Cohen's firm. She filed a lawsuit against the firm's chief financial officer, claiming she was sexually harassed after she asked about reimbursement for expenses, according to the court documents. She claimed Alan Goldberg asked her why she needed the money and she said because she was a single mom and needed to pay her divorce lawyer. "You have nice legs, your lawyer won't drop you" she claimed he replied.
Cohen, defending Goldberg, disputed all of her accusations, and said Khawam had a history of lying to the court, according to the documents.
A report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the facts did not support that "working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person in her position would have been compelled to resign."
Khawam, who earned $270,822 in 2010, quit the firm and filed for bankruptcy, according to a court filing.
Jill Kelley and her sister also met Gen. John Allen while he was at Central Command, and now investigators are looking at 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Kelley and Allen, some of which have been described as "flirtatious." The general has denied any wrongdoing.
In another twist in the scandal, court records indicate that Petraeus and Allen intervened two months ago in a messy custody dispute on behalf of Khawam. The judge awarded Khawam's ex-husband custody of their son last year. He also called Khawam dishonest and lacking in integrity.
For her part, Jill Kelley has taken a low profile since Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public. The Kelleys have retained high-powered Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who did not immediately return a call.
On Tuesday, Kelley could be seen through the large windows of her South Tampa home. In the driveway was a silver Mercedes with a license plate marked "Honorary Consul."
Kelley was appointed honorary consul for South Korea for the city of Tampa several months ago, and still holds that position, said Kristen Smith, executive assistant at the South Korean consulate in Atlanta, which also covers Florida. Smith didn't know how Kelley got the honor and did not know specifically what she did on behalf of South Korea.
Kelley's brother, David Khawam, told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia on Monday night that his family left Lebanon for suburban Philadelphia's Huntingdon Valley in the 1970s to escape the turmoil in their homeland. His parents opened a Middle Eastern restaurant in Voorhees, N.J., called Sahara.
"My family is very patriotic; we came from Lebanon at a young age," he said.
In another strange footnote to the scandal, long before the case involving Petraeus got under way, the FBI agent sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush .
Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier and Pauline Jelinek in Washington and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.