Susan Hannaford was once Australian television’s golden girl playing mousey-haired schoolgirl Kitty in the hugely successful 70s series, The Sullivans.
A lot has changed since then.
Susan has reinvented herself as a property tycoon in America and now lives the high life in Hollywood. And gone is the mousey hair – she’s now a platinum blonde.
“Everything in this country has worked out beautifully,” Hannaford told Sunday Night’s Matt Doran.
Hannaford played host to Sunday Night at her fabulous LA mansion, Palazzo Beverly Hills, where she lives with her daughter’s two children who she’s now raising.
And she seemed keen to impress with her private chefs, a butler, talk of fabulous parties and famous guests.
But, as Matt Doran discovered, sometimes it’s hard to work out what’s fact and fiction in Hannaford’s bizarre world.
After The Sullivans ended in the 80s, Hannaford opened a fashion boutique in Sydney’s exclusive Double Bay.
“I was selling ball gowns, things were selling for ten, twenty thousand dollars,” she said.
But by the late 90s Australia was too small for Hannaford and she moved to America where she reinvented herself as a real-estate mogul, starting from scratch.
“I wanted to conquer the world and I came to Beverly Hills,” she said.
“It’s not like I had millions of dollars in the bank,” she said.
“I came over here and I had to use my wits and work out how to raise some money.”
The timing was perfect. The American property market was near its peak and banks were keen to lend money often with little, if any, security.
In just a few years Susan amassed, and then lost, a massive property portfolio. She defaulted on loans for at least nine properties in Nevada, along with many others elsewhere in the US.
When the banks foreclosed and sold the Nevada properties from under her, they got back less than $8 million of the $22 million USD she borrowed to buy them.
“Well, that’s right – there was a huge recession. It’s not my fault if all the tenants have to evacuate because the banks have all gone bankrupt”.
“I don’t think you can blame someone for that,” Susan said.
And, rather than pursue Hannaford, the banks wrote off their losses on the properties.
“Nobody’s seeking anything from me,” she said.
“We found that she had over seventy-four different foreclosure actions that were filed against her,” Craig Greene, a certified fraud examiner, told Sunday Night.
“That is quite a lot. In fact, I don’t believe that in any case I’ve ever worked on I’ve seen that many,” says Greene who works regularly with American law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.
But Susan Hannaford’s real estate adventures weren’t confined to the US. Back home in Australia, Susan still owes the Commonwealth Bank millions for a Sydney harbour-side house she purchased in 1982.
The Commonwealth Bank has confirmed in a statement to Sunday Night that Hannaford’s debt is $4.65 million but she’s refusing to pay.
“We’re talking about an unscrupulous bank, so I think you have to read between the lines,” she said.
Despite owing lenders millions of dollars in Australia and the US, Hannaford bristles at claims she has done anything wrong.
“Look, I’m a little Aussie girl, if you think I’m the scam artist, fine.
“I’m simply saying that if you want to play with the big boys, it’s a snake pit out there. It’s just survival”.