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InvestmentsReal Estate

Former Fannie Mae employee found guilty of making millions on shady foreclosure sales

Ordered to forfeit a property she bought with a duffle bag full of cash

A former Fannie Mae employee is now facing 40 years in prison after being found guilty of accepting millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for selling Fannie Mae-owned foreclosures for less than market value.

Back in January 2018, Shirene Hernandez was charged with accepting bribes for steering foreclosures to certain brokers and even allegedly buying some foreclosures herself at below market value.

And this week, Hernandez was found guilty of two wire fraud counts that involved the deprivation of honest services.

Hernandez formerly worked at Fannie Mae in California as an REO foreclosure specialist and was tasked with the sale of properties foreclosed on by Fannie Mae.

As a sales representative, a position she held from 2010 through 2015, Hernandez would assign Fannie Mae-owned properties to real estate brokers and approve sales of the properties based on offers the brokers submitted.

But, Hernandez approved sales of Fannie Mae REO properties at discounted prices to both herself and to brokers who paid her kickbacks.

Hernandez also received bribes – mostly in the form of cash – in exchange for listings and commissions that brokers earned on real estate sales in question, all of which were violations of Fannie Mae rules and federal law.

Beyond that, Hernandez also assigned some listings to members of her family, who received almost $2 million in commissions in less than three years from the scheme.

According to court documents, Hernandez received more than $1 million in benefits from the scheme, including cash kickbacks and equity in a Fannie Mae property she bought using kickback money.

But Hernandez didn’t just use ill-gotten funds to buy a Fannie Mae property at below market value and then make money off it as a rental, she also paid for the property in question with a duffel bag full of cash.

As a part of scheme, Hernandez bought a Fannie Mae-owned property in Sonoma that she was responsible for selling on behalf of Fannie Mae. But instead of selling it at top dollar, she rejected higher offers and approved a sale at a below market price – to herself.

Not directly, of course. According to court documents, Hernandez used intermediaries and affiliates that she controlled to buy the property.

First, she sold the house on behalf of Fannie Mae to a company affiliated with a broker who was bribing her. Then, she directed the broker to transfer the property to Hernandez’s sister-in-law, who paid for the property with a duffel bag filled with $286,450 in cash that she received from Hernandez, an amount that was far below the market price.

From there, Hernandez made money on the house by renting it out.

As part of her trial, a federal jury ordered Hernandez to forfeit the rental property to the government, as the property is now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the price Hernandez paid for it.

Hernandez faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each of the two felony offenses.

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