A veteran Orange County foreclosure specialist at federal government-created Fannie Mae hoped a wild defense would allow him to evade a criminal conviction after executing a bribery plot against an Arizona real estate broker.
Armando Granillo claimed he didn't know that demanding and accepting bribes was illegal because kickbacks were commonplace in his Irvine office.
"If there is circumstantial evidence that other people took kickbacks or bribes, and that such behavior was tolerated, if not sanctioned, by Fannie Mae, then the jury should decide if this circumstantial evidence shows that Mr. Granillo had an honest belief he was not violating the law," argued the 45-year-old defendants's public defender, David I. Wasserman.
In 2013, Granillo contacted a Tucson-based real estate broker and told the person (whose identity is sealed) that he could assign 100 foreclosed properties to that person's company in exchange for a secret 20 percent kickback on all commissions earned.
On March 5 of that year, Granillo--using what he erroneously thought was an untraceable pre-paid cell phone listed under another man's name--lured the broker to a Starbucks parking lot on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, accepted a package containing $11,200 in cash and immediately found himself under arrest.
The broker had been recording their conversations and wearing a body wire during face-to-face meetings as well as working with agents with Fannie Mae's Inspector General's office.
Unimpressed federal prosecutors dismissed Granillo's rationale for concocting his scheme as "the everyone was doing it defense."
This month inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, a jury convicted the Huntington Beach man of depriving Fannie Mae of "honest and faithful services."
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Granillo's lawyer asked U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter to overturn the jury's verdicts, but he refused.
A May 27 sentencing hearing is scheduled.