Donna Leinwand Leger and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
TAMPA -- Jill Kelley is, by all accounts, a charming and generous hostess for Tampa's social and military elite. She and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon, have held elegant soirees at their bayfront mansion for generals from nearby MacDill Air Force Base and foreign diplomats.
Which makes it all the more disconcerting for her friends -- and titillating for others -- to see how a worried question about anonymous e-mails has blown up into a scandal that brought down the CIA director, put a top general's promotion on hold and exposed the multimillion-dollar financial troubles that her extravagant parties concealed.
The six-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom brick house in one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods is seen to have peeling paint. The Kelleys purchased the 1923 brick house in 2004 for $1.5 million.
Jill Kelley's Mercedes S500, with its "honorary consul" license plates, was in the three-car carriage house next to a Volvo on Wednesday.
Reporters are camped just off the lawn where bands have played as cocktails were served to the top brass from MacDill. Several times this week, Kelley called police and suggested she might merit diplomatic protection from the intruders because of her status as an honorary consul' for South Korea -- an unpaid volunteer post with no specific duties.
Aaron Fodiman, publisher of the glossy Tampa Bay Magazine, has socialized with the Kelleys and attended parties at their home.
"They are a lovely couple," he said. "We are in shock over this. It's insane. Bizarre."
He says the city's social and charitable doors are open to anyone who comes "with a sincere desire to help."
"If you're famous enough, rich enough or charming enough, everybody wants you," he says. "The Kelleys are charming. They are nice. They live in a $1.5 million house on the most prestigious street. They go to the events. They donate. Why wouldn't people want to have them at a party?"
About six months ago, Jill Kelley, 37, became a volunteer for the International Council of the Tampa Bay Region, president Gary Springer said.
The council, one of 92 around the United States, partners with the State Department to coordinate professional exchanges with visitors from other countries as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, Springer said.
"She's a delightful host," he said. "She's been a wonderful volunteer for the organization."
Now the Kelleys are not socializing. A knock at the door goes unanswered. They are not answering questions about their finances. They have been sued at least nine times for millions in debt.
The $2.1 million purchase of a three-story office building downtown ended in foreclosure. The couple defaulted on a $250,000 line of credit and owe thousands on credit cards.
Chase Bank sued for $25,880 in 2010.
FIA Card Services sued in February for $79,876, including more than $75,000 in cash advances on a Visa Signature card.
Regions Bank sued in August 2010 after the Kelleys failed to make payments on $250,000 borrowed July 19, 2005. The bank ultimately settled for $85,000 and required the Kelleys to pay $850 a month toward the debt.
There are other legal matters. Jill Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam, moved in when her marriage broke up. She has contacted police at least five times since mid-2009, including once in 2010 over a possible stalker she said might have been related to her divorce.
Those matters were relatively private until the spotlight hit after Jill Kelley became alarmed by anonymous e-mails. FBI Special Agent Frederick Humphries, a friend, told her they were serious enough to warrant investigation. He was told to steer clear of the case because of his personal connection to Kelley. He was identified by a source with knowledge of the case as the agent who, it was widely reported, had sent her a photo of himself shirtless. A source close to the family said it was just a party snapshot of several people posing with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The FBI investigation traced the e-mails to Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of Gen. David Petraeus, and more e-mails that revealed their sexual relationship. It also turned up e-mails between Jill Kelley and Gen. John Allen, who succeeded Petraeus as the top commander in Afghanistan when Petraeus became CIA director. Allen has been nominated to head the Allied forces in Europe, but confirmation hearings are on hold pending the outcome of the investigation.
A federal law enforcement official, who has been briefed on the matter but is not authorized to comment, said Kelley and Allen were among a handful of people who received anonymous e-mails from Broadwell.
The official said other recipients included ranking military officers who were familiar with Kelley.The messages, according to the official, sought in part to alienate Kelley from them and other influential people in the military community.
Broadwell's attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Marine Corps' chief defense counsel, Col. John Baker, said Allen is cooperating with an investigation by the inspector general into whether the e-mail exchanges were inappropriate. "To the extent there are questions about certain communications by General Allen, he shares in the desire to resolve those questions as completely and quickly as possible," the statement said.
There was more action Wednesday. The Pentagon revoked Paula Broadwell's security clearance, and MacDill said it had pulled Kelley's "Friends of MacDill" pass that had eased her through security and onto the base, where she was an unpaid social liaison to the community.
Contributing: William M. Welch in Los Angeles; Kevin Johnson in Washington; WTSP-TV