Trial begins in Fannie Mae foreclosure kickback scheme

Accused says he thought kickbacks were normal

Trial began Wednesday for a Fannie Mae salesman accused of taking kickbacks from a mortgage broker to give him foreclosed property listings on behalf of the government-sponsored enterprise.

Prosecutors in California say Armando Granillo told an Arizona real estate broker that he’d allow Maughan to have his choice of the best listings if, in return, Maughan gave him a 20% cut of the commissions.

"The scheme might have worked except for one thing," Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen Goorvich said in the Santa Ana court in opening statements. "Mr. Maughan called the authorities" and they recorded a series of meetings. Federal investigators recorded Granillo taking an initial cash payment of $11,200 from Maughan.

A former Fannie Mae employee accused of soliciting kickbacks from a real estate broker in return for foreclosure listings regarded the practice as commonly accepted behavior.

His defense lawyers said Wednesday in a Santa Ana courtroom that the former employee had no intention of defrauding the home finance giant last year when he accepted $11,200 in cash in what turned out to be a videotaped federal sting.

The unusual explanation came on behalf of Armando Granillo, 44, a foreclosure specialist at a Fannie Mae Western regional office in Irvine. Before his arrest in May, he had spent 3 1/2 years overseeing brokers as they cleaned up and sold the foreclosed homes that had swamped Fannie Mae, requiring a $116-billion taxpayer bailout during the subprime mortgage meltdown.

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