Before dawn one hazy March day in L.A., Armando Granillo pulled his SUV into a Starbucks near MacArthur Park, where he planned to pick up an envelope full of cash from an Arizona real estate broker, federal investigators say.
Granillo, a foreclosure specialist at mortgage giant Fannie Mae, expected to drive off with $11,200 — an illegal kickback for steering foreclosure listings to brokers, authorities allege in court records.
Granillo would leave in handcuffs. And investigators are now looking into assertions by Granillo and another former Fannie Mae foreclosure specialist that such kickbacks were “a natural part of business” at the government-sponsored housing finance company, as Granillo allegedly told the broker in a wiretapped conversation.
Investigators are examining whether other workers in Fannie Mae’s Irvine office solicited illegal payments, according to three people with knowledge of the probe, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Granillo at first offered to cooperate with investigators but later declined to talk, two of the people said.
Another former foreclosure specialist in Irvine, Cecelia Carter, contends in an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit that Fannie Mae fired her in 2011 for trying to expose the kickbacks.