After Sean Hannity was named as Michael Cohen’s secret third client last week, questions abounded about what the nature of Cohen’s work with Hannity was, considering the work he did for his other clients was paying women hush money.
Hannity has said that his work with Cohen was limited to “brief” discussions about property. “I might have handed him 10 bucks. I definitely wanted attorney-client privilege on this,” Hannity told listeners to his radio show last Monday afternoon. “I’ve said many times on my radio show: I hate the stock market, I prefer real estate,” Hannity added on his TV show last week. “Michael knows real estate.”
A new Guardian report sheds some more light the nature of Hannity’s real estate interests. Reportedly, the Fox host owns a real estate empire that spans seven states, with the help of some shell companies, foreclosures, and HUD:
Hannity’s chosen investment strategy is confirmed by thousands of pages of public records reviewed by the Guardian, which detail a real estate portfolio of remarkable scale that has not previously been reported.
The records link Hannity to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.
Dozens of the properties were bought at a discount in 2013, after banks foreclosed on their previous owners for defaulting on mortgages. Before and after then, Hannity sharply criticised Barack Obama for the US foreclosure rate. In January 2016, Hannity said there were “millions more Americans suffering under this president” partly because of foreclosures.
In a revelation that should shock no one, the companies linked to Hannity directly benefitted from human misery:
The list of properties bought by the Hannity-linked companies includes multimillion-dollar homes used by Hannity. It also features single-family units priced as low as $50,000 in relatively poor suburbs. In at least two cases, batches of homes were bought simultaneously at a discount, after they were repossessed by banks from their previous owners in foreclosure proceedings.
The entire portfolio connected to Hannity comprises at least 877 residential units, which were bought for a total of just under $89m. Another seven properties bought by the companies over recent years have subsequently been sold on for more than $4m, according to public records.
The states where the properties are located in are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont, the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, Hannity signed deeds and other documents on behalf of four LLCs, and four more of the companies own properties where Hannity or members of his family have lived. In the other cases, the Guardian said, only the LLC name and a contact at Henssler Financial—a wealth management firm based in Kennesaw, GA whose offices the shell companies were registered to—was listed, meaning Hannity couldn’t be confirmed as the hidden owner of all of them.
Frequent Hannity contributor and guest Bill Lako is a principal at Henssler. As the Guardian noted, Hannity has disclosed that he’s a Henssler client on his radio show, saying he was a “charity case” when he began working with the firm and joking to Lako that “now I’m the best client you have.”
What’s more is that some of the money for some of these real estate deals done by Fox’s favorite Small Government Conservative came from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:
Among the most valuable are two large apartment complexes in Georgia that Hannity bought in 2014 for $22.7m. The developments are in the cities of Perry and Brunswick, which have higher poverty rates and lower median incomes than the US averages. One- and two-bedroom units in Hannity’s apartment complexes are available to rent for $735 to $1,065 per month, according to brochures.
The Georgia purchases were funded with mortgages for $17.9m that Hannity obtained with help from Hud, which insured the loans under a program created as part of the National Housing Act. The loans, first guaranteed under the Obama administration, were recently increased by $5m with renewed support from [Secretary Ben] Carson’s department.
Paperwork relating to the agreements with HUD, which was filed to county authorities, named Hannity as the principal of the shell companies used to buy the apartment complexes and to borrow the funds. Hannity personally signed several of the documents. A HUD source said Hannity was identified in non-public filings as the 100% owner of the apartment complexes.
Late last month, Hannity’s mortgages were replaced with loans for $22.9m that were rewritten with Carson’s Hud and a new bank. There was no indication that Carson was personally involved in the process. Carson does, however, have the authority to allow Hannity from 2019 to convert the rental complexes into condominiums for sale, which could be lucrative for the television host.
Both HUD and Fox declined to comment for the Guardian’s story, and the Guardian says that Lako didn’t respond to an email requesting comment. Hannity’s real estate lawyer, Christopher Reeves, told the Guardian that Hannity’s holdings were “highly confidential.”
“I doubt you would find it very surprising that most people prefer to keep their legal and personal financial issues private,” Reeves told the Guardian. “Mr. Hannity is no different.”