A 36-year-old Florida woman used a romance scam to defraud a Holocaust survivor out of his $2.8 million savings, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Peaches Stergo of Championsgate, southwest of Orlando, was arrested in Florida on Wednesday and is charged with one count of wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern New York said.
Stergo, who also goes by the name “Alice,” met the victim, an 87-year-old Manhattan man, on a dating site six or seven years ago, officials said.
In 2017, she demanded money – claiming she got a settlement following a lawsuit but had to pay her lawyer to receive it – prosecutors said.
A four-year series of lies followed, according to an indictment.
Stergo falsely claimed that she needed more and more money or else her TD bank accounts would be frozen and he would never be reimbursed, according to the indictment.
She also forged emails claiming to be from TD Bank and fake invoices to be given to the victim’s bank to explain the large transfers, according to the indictment.
In all, 62 checks for $2.8 million were deposited into his accounts, according to the indictment.
It stopped in October 2021 when the man told his son he had given his savings to the woman but was promised he would be reimbursed and the son said he had been victimized of a scam, according to the indictment.
A lawyer for Stergo was not listed in the Federal Court’s online documents. A number listed as belonging to him did not appear to be operational.
Stergo spent the money on a house, condo, boat, trips, cars and Rolex watches, prosecutors said.
People lost more than $1 billion in romance scams in the United States in 2021, the FBI said in February. There were about 24,000 casualties that year, the agency said.