USA: Michael Cohen case shines light on Sean Hannity’s real estate empire

Fox News host who said Trump’s fixer ‘knows real estate’ has a portfolio that includes support from Department of Housing and Urban Development, a fact he did not mention when interviewing secretary Ben Carson last year

When Sean Hannity was named in court this week as a client of Donald Trump’s embattled legal fixer Michael Cohen, the Fox News host insisted their discussions had been limited to the subject of buying property.

“I’ve said many times on my radio show: I hate the stock market, I prefer real estate. Michael knows real estate,” Hannity said on television, a few hours after the dramatic hearing in Manhattan, where Cohen is under criminal investigation.

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.

Hannity, 56, also amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (Hud), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson, the Hud secretary, on his television show last year.

Christopher Reeves, Hannity’s real estate attorney, said in an email he would “struggle to find any relevance” in Hannity’s property holdings, which he said were highly confidential.

The real estate holdings linked to Hannity are spread across more than 20 shell companies formed in Georgia. Each of the companies uses a variant of the same name, which combines the initials of Hannity’s children. Public records show the companies have bought up dozens of properties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont.

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 Carson’s department.

Hannity, who is reportedly paid $36m per year for his television and radio shows, was criticised this week following Cohen’s court hearing, after it became clear he had defended Cohen and Trump on the air without disclosing that he also consulted Cohen for legal services.

He also declined to note his financial interest when he hosted Carson on Fox News last June for a discussion about Hud and housing. Hannity praised privatisation plans pushed by Trump and Carson
.https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/apr/22/michael-cohen-sean-hannity-property-real-estate-ben-carson-hud?CMP=share_btn_tw&ncid=newsltushpmgnews__TheMorningEmail__042318

Categories: USA

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