Jill Kelley of Tampa, Fla., Socialite Linked to Gen. John Allen, Unwittingly Exposed Affair Between Petraeus, Broadwell

9:25 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - Who is Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite at the heart of investigations involving two of the most powerful military men in the world?

Her call to an FBI agent about harassing e-mails unwittingly exposed an extramarital affair by a family friend -- Gen. David Petraeus, who subsequently resigned as head the CIA. That investigation has now also ensnared the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, for "potentially inappropriate" communications with Kelley -- e-mails described as "flirtatious."

The Pentagon is reviewing 20,000 to 30,000 pages of e-mails and other documents from their communications between 2010 and 2012, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified senior defense official.

AP writes that the official "would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information." One e-mail to Kelley reportedly contains a bare-chested photo of Allen, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Allen has denied any wrongdoing, the official told AP.

ABC News says "an intermediary" for Allen said that he and his wife are friends with Kelley and her husband, and that most of the e-mails were sent from Kelley to Allen's wife.

How did the 37-year-old Kelley, born to a prominent Lebanese-American family in Philadelphia, land in the international spotlight?

She positioned herself at the center of the military social scene, acting as a kind of party ambassador for U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, near the two-story brick mansion where she lives with her surgeon husband, Scott Kelley, and their three children.

The Kelleys became friends with Petraeus when he was CENTCOM commander there from 2008 to 2010, and threw parties described as "lavish."

Through her volunteer work at the base, Jill Kelley and Petraeus exchanged near-daily e-mails and instant messages, two of his former staffers told AP. But those messages were exchanged in accounts that his aides regularly monitored and were not romantic in tone, they said.

Two years ago, at a soiree for Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Petraeus arrived with a 28-cop motorcycle escort, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A photo shows Petraeus and his wife, Holly, with the Kelleys and Jill's identical twin sister, Natalie Khawam, wearing party beads, with a pirate flag in the background.

The VIP invite list for the 2011 Army Ball shows the Kelleys rubbing elbows with top-level officers, politicians and other civic leaders, Business Insider reports.

The Petraeus and Kelley families were described as close, and they spent holidays together at Petraeus' residence in Washington, D.C. The families have spent the holidays together and celebrated Christmas together last year, according to Petraeus' daughter Anne's personal blog, ABC News says.

The Washington Post writes that Jill Kelley's brother, David Khawam, said that his sister "had deep affection" for the Petraeuses and that "she never had anything but a platonic relationship with the general."

"They were truly good friends for years," said told the Post.

As they entertained the military elite, the Kelleys were piling up substantial debt, the Post writes, citing court records.Banks began foreclosure proceedings on two properties and other creditors sued them for tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.

In May of this year, Kelley began receiving harassing e-mails, law enforcement have said. The FBI investigation began with five to 10 anonymous e-mails, some that appeared to accuse her of an inappropriate relationship. Petraeus was not named, the Wall Street Journal reported.

FBI agents traced the e-mails to Paula Broadwell, and then found that she was exchanging "intimate" messages with a private Gmail account that Petraeus had opened under an alias. The revelations catapulted Kelley into the spotlight.

Born Jill Khawam, Kelley grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and lived in the area until her mid-20s, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. Her parents ran a restaurant across the Delaware River in Voorhees, N.J.

"Since she moved to Tampa, she was raising money for different politicians and so-forth since the coalition forces were based in Tampa," her brother told WTSP-TV. "It was a natural step for her to help raise money and run fundraisers and so-forth."

Kelley's twin is a Tampa lawyer who works on health care fraud and whistleblowers cases, according to her Linkedin profile, which was deleted Monday.

In 2003, the sisters competed in Food Network cook-off for the show Food Fight.

Kelley has not yet spoken with the media. Monday, she and her husband released a statement.

"We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years," the statement said. "We respect his and his family's privacy and want the same for us and our three children."

In the past few days, Kelley has called 911 several times, asking for police to come to her home. At least once she tried to invoke "diplomatic protection."

By Michael Winter, USA TODAY

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