Well, it looks like David Petraeus got himself wrapped up with some real fine folks when he befriended the Khawam family. Jill Kelley (nee Khawam) is the financially troubled Tampa socialite who went to the feds complaining of harassing emails from an anonymous tormentor who turned out to by Paula Broadwell. Her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, is the bankrupt lawyer that a D.C judge has called "unstable," who has been repeatedly accused of lying to state and federal courts, and who, with her sister, regularly took Petraeus' wife on shopping trips. Just a couple regular gals!
Kelley now finds herself at the center of two scandals: The Petraeus affair, and an investigation into hundreds of "flirtatious" emails between her and Petraeus' former deputy, Gen. John Allen. It's exceedingly unclear at this point precisely why Kelley was involved in Petraeus' life. She was initially described in press reports as an unpaid liaison between the State Department and officials at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, the headquarters of Central Command. That was lated revised to "unpaid social liaison," apparently a reference to the parties she and her husband, Tampa surgeon Scott Kelley, frequently hosted for CENTCOM brass at their $1.2 million mansion. According to the Washington Post, Kelley—whose parents are immigrants from Lebanon—also acted as a "go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern government officials."
Indeed, she seems to have been a regular on the diplomatic circuit: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN yesterday that he had met her once or twice at British embassy events. And when she called 911 from her home over the weekend to complain about reporters hanging out on her lawn, she claimed to be an "honorary consul general" who is due "diplomatic protection."
She is also deeply in debt. Kelley and her husband are currently facing foreclosure on two multi-million dollar real estate investments, as well as a lawsuit related to unpaid credit card debt. That's the sort of sticky financial situation that makes people vulnerable to exploitation by foreign agents, which is one reason it's so weird that Petraeus was so close to the Khawam family.
The Kelleys also, according to the Huffington Post, ran a charity purportedly devote to cancer patients that spent most of its money on "parties, entertainment, travel and attorney fees" before going out of business.
While all the available evidence suggests—for now—that Kelley is little more than a social climber attracted to power, her twin sister is a different story. Natalie Khawam lives with her sister and brother-in-law in Tampa. She's an attorney specializing in whistle-blower lawsuits. But by all accounts, her personal and professional lives are a mess. She filed for bankruptcy in April of this year, claiming $3.6 million in debt against $349,000 in assets. Among the debts: an $800,000 "personal loan" from her sister and brother-in-law.
She is engaged in a nasty custody battle with her ex-husband Grayson Wolfe, a former Bush Administration official who served in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and "Director of Broader Middle East Initiatives and Iraqi Reconstruction at the Export-Import Bank of the United States," according to his LinkedIn profile.
Khawam is currently involved in nasty litigation with Barry Cohen, a Tampa lawyer who briefly employed her. She sued him in July, claiming sexual harassment and unpaid compensation. But according to the Tampa Bay Times, she stopped pursuing the litigation, and Cohen struck back:
Since her filing, Cohen has delved into Khawam's past: He's uncovered court documents from a bankruptcy. He also unearthed a searing, 19-page child custody order from a Washington, D.C., superior court judge calling her out in 2011 for a lengthy "history of abusing the litigation process" and a "willingness to say anything, even under oath, to advance her own personal interests."
In court documents, Cohen also claims that Khawam "fraudulently omitted Rolex watches, sable mink furs and a diamond ring" from a list of her assets in an April bankruptcy.
On top of that, Cohen has filed a motion for dismissal and requested sanctions against Khawam for a bad-faith filing.
In addition to accusing her of abusing the litigation process, the judge in that custody case called Khawam "psychologically unstable."
Which makes it, again, downright weird that both Petraeus and Allen submitted letters to that judge testifying to Khawam's qualifications as a mother. "My wife and I have known Natalie for approximately three years, getting to know her while serving in Tampa, Florida, through our friendship with Dr. and Mrs. Scott Kelley," Petraeus wrote in a letter dated September. "Natalie clearly dotes on her son."
Petraeus and Allen are not the only powerful Florida players that Khawam and her sister cultivated: She also, according to the Daily Telegraph, once dated (plainly gay) former Gov. Charlie Crist.
To recap: The CIA director and the commanding officer in Afghanistan were both closely involved with a pair of twin Lebanese sisters, one of whom was a self-appointed diplomatic official who hosted lavish parties for American military officers and loaned six-figure sums to family members while defaulting on her own debt payments and running fake charities, the other of whom accumulated millions in debt, allegedly lied to state and federal courts, and was described by a judge as unstable.
The daughters' financial difficulties may well be inherited: Their parents filed for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania in 1990.
[Image via AP]