News and Press Releases

Two Charged With Wire Fraud Conspiracy In Mortgage Fraud Scheme

October 26 , 2011

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Irwin, Pa., and a former resident of Pittsburgh have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on a charge of wire fraud conspiracy, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

The one-count superseding indictment, returned on Oct. 25, named Jason Sheraw, 38, of Irwin, Pa., and Lewis Whoolery, 42, formerly of Pittsburgh, Pa., as defendants. Whoolery currently resides in Delray Beach, Fla.

According to the superseding indictment presented to the court, Whoolery operated a mortgage broker business called First Capital Home Equity that provided fraudulent information to lending institutions to secure loans collateralized by real estate.  Whoolery and members of the conspiracy provided lenders with false information related to the borrowers’ incomes and assets, and they also submitted fraudulent documents in support of those false representations.

In addition, as alleged in the superseding indictment, Whoolery used unlicensed appraisers, including Kenneth Cowden and Kimberly Baldwin, to prepare appraisals for the properties serving as collateral for the loans.  Whoolery entered into agreements with licensed appraisers Jeannette Gray and Jason Sheraw in which, in exchange for money, Gray and Sheraw allowed Cowden and Baldwin to prepare and submit appraisals as if they had been prepared by Gray and Sheraw.  Those appraisals often overstated the true values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force is comprised of investigators from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and others involved in the mortgage industry.  Federal law enforcement agencies participating in the Mortgage Task Force include the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and the United States Secret Service. Other Mortgage Fraud Task Force members include the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Consumer Protection; the Pennsylvania Department of Banking; the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation; and the United States Trustee's Office.

A superseding indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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