Socialite’s climb halted by unfolding scandal

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But Petraeus aides say Jill Kelley took it to another level, winning the title of “honorary ambassador” for her extensive entertaining at her home on behalf of the command, throwing parties that raised her social status in Tampa through the reflected glow of the four-star general in attendance.

Petraeus honored the couple with an award, given to them in a special ceremony at the Pentagon just before he departed the military for his post at the CIA, an aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter publicly.

Aaron Fodiman, who’s been publisher of Tampa Bay Magazine for 27 years, said people like Petraeus and Allen usually don’t know anyone when they arrive, and that people like Kelley act as “the welcome wagon.” But while he described the hostess as “outgoing and effervescent,” he said her parties “were like everybody else’s parties.”

“Nothing different or special,” who has attended several events at the Kelley home. “Standard procedure. Have a caterer. Feed people. Give them something to drink. And let them mix.”

But behind the scenes, this veneer of upward mobility was showing signs of cracking.

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.

During a news conference Wednesday, Cohen said both sisters had been heard dropping Petraeus‘ name often, though he never heard Allen’s name invoked. He said both subscribed to the idea that you should “join these clubs and have these parties and drop these names.”

Referring to Jill Kelley, he said: “She does what she thinks is necessary to be perceived as being important.”

Her apparent importance and connections were described to Victor, when the New York businessman was introduced to her.

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