A conversation with a pool boy at a risqué resort that the Falwells — one of the most prominent evangelical families in the country — visited in 2012 may have been the catalyst for a saga that ended with convicted ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen allegedly handling the disposal of potentially compromising photos of the couple.
According to a new New York Times report, Jerry Falwell and his wife Becki Tilley visited the Kardashian-friendly resort, Fontainebleau, where they met a promising, young pool attendant named Giancarlo Granda, who was 21 years old. The couple was reportedly impressed by Granda, who spoke with them at length about his Florida real estate ambitions. A person close to the Falwells told the Times that the couple offered to help him out with his business ventures within months of their meeting. They even invited the young, first-generation immigrant to then-citizen Trump’s speech at Liberty University later that year.
After the Falwells offered to help Granda, he reached out to family friends, Jesus Fernandez Jr. and Jesus Fernandez Sr., who had worked in real estate in Miami for years. The Fernandezes claim they pointed Granda to a youth hostel in South Beach, Florida as a potential investment.
Granda, the Fernandezes and the Falwells met in Florida and the Falwells agreed to help purchase the hostel, which included a liquor store and a restaurant.
But the relationship between Granda and the Falwells ended in a lawsuit not long after the purchase. The Fernandezes allege in the suit that during negotiations with the Falwells, ownership shares were promised to them. The Falwells reportedly deny those allegations.
According to the Times, the court battle over ownership of hostel descended into a back-and-forth over alleged compromising photographs — a battle that Cohen claims he helped resolve. According to people involved in the case who spoke to the Times, either Granda or the Fernandezes were in possession of “personal” photos that would be damaging to the Falwells if they were released publicly. Cohen described the photos as “terrible” for the Falwells and “personal,” between a “husband and wife.”
While we already knew about Cohen’s claims about his involvement in helping resolve the matter, the details of the possession of the photos were not previously known. Granda’s lawyer told the Times that his client was not the person mentioned in Cohen’s recorded divulgence about the saga with comedian Tom Arnold.
Reuters was first to report in May that Cohen was involved in negotiations between the Falwells and a blackmailer’s lawyer in an attempt to get rid of the pictures. While Cohen’s interference came just months before Falwell issued a shocking endorsement of President Trump, Reuters and the Times found no clear evidence that there was a link between the two events.
Falwell has denied the existence of the photos as well as reports that he directed Cohen to deal with them.
Read the full Times report here.