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Fox News host Sean Hannity’s real estate venture linked to fraudulent property dealer

A shell company linked to Hannity purchased 11 foreclosed homes that had been bought by a property dealer who later pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud and conspiracy charges

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 12:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 1:00am

Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought houses through a property dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes, a review of records showed.

In 2012, a shell company linked to the Fox News host purchased 11 homes in Georgia that had been bought by the dealer, Jeff Brock, after foreclosures. Brock transferred the properties to corporate vehicles that sold them on to the Hannity-linked company at a profit.

Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for his role in an operation to rig foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. He was sentenced to six months in prison and had to pay more than US$166,000 in fines and restitution.

Some of the houses sold on to the Hannity-linked firm in 2012 had been acquired by Brock from banks later named by prosecutors among his victims. The US Department of Justice declined to identify specific properties sold in the rigged auctions. 

Hannity has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and there is no evidence he was aware that Brock was involved in fraud.

Christopher Reeves, a lawyer for Hannity, said his client was not involved in choosing the houses bought via Brock and “has no knowledge whether these properties were involved in the fraud”.

Reeves said neither Hannity nor the company used to buy the properties “had any knowledge regarding Mr Brock’s wrongdoing.” 

An lawyer for Brock, Don Samuel, said in an email: “Jeff has nothing to say.”

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The company linked to Hannity was one of a group identified on Sunday that spent US $90 million buying more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. 

Hannity was confirmed as the hidden owner behind some of the companies and has not disputed that he is the owner of all of them.

Hannity defended his real estate investments on Monday, stating in a post to his website that he had chosen to invest his personal wealth in “communities that badly need such investment” and that he had limited involvement in the venture’s day-to-day operation.

“The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support,” Hannity wrote.

In February 2012, the Hannity-linked company spent about US$540,000 buying 10 single-family houses in Georgia’s Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, and DeKalb counties, according to county records. It bought an additional DeKalb county property later that year for about US$60,000.

The company was formed in Georgia days before the February purchases by a lawyer for Hannity. It was registered to the offices of Henssler Financial, Hannity’s wealth managers. 

As a limited liability company (LLC), it was not required to report its actual owner to Georgia regulators. Hannity is not mentioned in the company’s publicly available filings.

Brock had bought the 11 Georgia houses in foreclosure auctions in 2011 and 2012, after the previous owners defaulted on mortgages. 

US prosecutors said that, during the period in which he was buying the properties, Brock and two co-defendants were running a scheme to rig foreclosure auctions, where people bid to buy homes that have been repossessed by mortgage lenders.

Reeves, Hannity’s lawyer, said he and the company used to buy the houses “ceased doing business with Mr Brock and Key Properties in 2012”.