A former Fannie Mae specialist in foreclosures was sentenced Monday to 15 months in prison for soliciting kickbacks from a real estate broker -- a practice he had said was "a natural part of business" at the nation's largest home finance company.
Armando Granillo, 45, was convicted by a jury in March of proposing to help the real estate broker earn commissions by awarding him the right to sell foreclosed properties and approving sales at less than full value.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter added six months in a halfway house at the end of the prison term and ordered Granillo to begin serving his sentence Sept. 22.
Granillo had testified that he devised the scheme because he was desperate to raise money for treatment for his autistic daughter. Defense attorney David Wasserman had argued for a sentence of a day behind bars and then probation, saying Granillo "out of desperation made a terrible mistake."
Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen J. Goorvich initially had asked Carter to send Granillo to prison for 36 months for defrauding government-sponsored Fannie Mae, a pillar of the housing market that required a $116-billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis.
"A sentence of 36 months will send a message to public, private and quasi-public officials that they must be honest in the performance of their duties," Goorvich said in a sentencing memo.
But during the hearing he dropped his contention that as a Fannie Mae employee Granillo deserved extra time because he was a "quasi-public official" in his role as a foreclosure specialist.
Granillo has been free on bond since his conviction in March. He had worked as a sales representative for foreclosed properties at Fannie Mae, which buys and guarantees mortgages made by banks and other lenders.
Fannie Mae wound up with hundreds of thousands of seized homes during the housing bust. The foreclosures represented a trove of deals for brokers entrusted to liquidate the backlog -- a fact Granillo tried to exploit for profit.
In a government sting, he was videotaped last year in a Tempe, Ariz., restaurant promising to allow Tucson broker Gus Maughan to "cherry pick" listings in return for kickbacks -- a practice Granillo said was common at Fannie Mae. He described his colleagues as "a bunch of crooks."
He was videotaped again near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles when he was arrested, clutching an envelope stuffed with $11,200 in cash.