A woman in Florida has been slapped with a federal indictment after she allegedly swindled a lonely Holocaust survivor out of nearly $3 million over the course of several years.
According to the Department of Justice and the FBI, 36-year-old Peaches Stergo of ChampionsGate, Florida, near Orlando, met the unnamed 87-year-old victim on a dating website “six or seven years ago.” Under the pseudonym “Alice,” Stergo began corresponding with the victim and told him that she had recently settled a lawsuit in connection to a car accident. However, she claimed her lawyer would not release the funds until she paid him, and she did not have enough money to do so.
The victim then sent her a check for $25,000, and afterwards, Stergo allegedly told the man that the settlement money had been deposited into her TD Bank account. Damian Williams, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the assistant director-in-charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, claimed that Stergo had never settled any lawsuit but used the fake lawsuit as a pretense to continue conning the victim.
On dozens of occasions, Stergo supposedly convinced the victim that she needed money to prevent her account from becoming “frozen.” If it did, she allegedly warned him that she wouldn’t be able to repay him. In all, the victim wrote Stergo 62 different checks totaling more than $2.8 million, and Stergo then blew that money on lavish vacations and luxury items, including a home in a gated community, a boat, a Corvette, a Suburban, several Rolex watches, and designer clothes from Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and others, the indictment stated. Meanwhile, the victim, who had already been victimized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, lost his apartment and his entire life savings.
To make the scheme look more believable, Stergo allegedly sent the victim several forged letters and invoices on behalf of a bank employee whom she had made up. The scam was exposed after the victim admitted to his son that he had lost all of his money, even as he insisted that he would soon be repaid. His son was skeptical and reported the case to the authorities.
“The defendant callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” Driscoll said.
Stergo was arrested in Florida and charged with one count of wire fraud, an offense which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. It is unclear whether she has yet named an attorney to represent her.
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