A former foreclosure specialist at mortgage giant Fannie Mae's Irvine office was caught dead to rights accepting an $11,200 kickback from an Arizona real estate broker while a second employee of that office claims she was fired for trying to expose the illegal payments, according to a published report.
E. Scott Reckard gets the scoop for the Los Angeles Times, which proposes the Irvine workers found such kickbacks "a natural part of business.
Here's how Reckard's account begins:
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.
The 44-year-old Huntington Beach resident has pleaded not guilty and remains free on bond pending trial scheduled to begin Aug. 6 in Santa Ana federal court.
A short walk away is Orange County Superior Court, where you'll find Cecelia Carter's lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully terminated for trying to expose such kickbacks. The 47-year-old Riverside resident is seeking compensation for lost wages and punitive damages for Fannie Mae's "reckless disregard" of her rights, according to the complaint filed earlier this month.
The veteran Times reporter writes:
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She contends the company failed to address her complaints about numerous improprieties, including marketing homes without clear title and assigning brokers to list homes in markets with which they were unfamiliar. She also alleges discrimination based on her age and race.
The suit says she was fired for reporting her suspicions about employees soliciting kickbacks, including Granillo and certain managers. She said she began raising those suspicions in 2009 and ultimately took them to higher-ups in Washington, D.C., at Fannie Mae's human relations and ethics offices.
Fannie Mae representatives said they can't comment on pending litigation and personnel matters.
The Irvine office opened near John Wayne Airport in late 2008 with about 50 workers. After Fannie Mae crashed due to mass defaults on the home loans it had guaranteed, taxpayers spent $116 billion bailing out the company, which remains under U.S. government control.