A 36-year-old Florida woman used a romance scam to defraud a Holocaust survivor of his $2.8 million life savings, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Peaches Stergo of Championsgate, southwest of Orlando, was arrested Wednesday in Florida 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 “Alice,” met the victim, an 87-year-old Manhattan man, on a dating website six or seven years ago, officials said.
In 2017 she asked for money — claiming she’d gotten a settlement from a lawsuit but needed to pay her lawyer to receive it — prosecutors said.
A series of lies over four years followed, according to an indictment.
Stergo falsely claimed she needed more and more money or else her TD Bank accounts would be frozen and he would never be paid back, according to the indictment.
She also faked emails pretending to be from TD Bank and faked invoices to give to the victim’s bank to explain the large transfers, the indictment says.
In all, 62 checks for $2.8 million were deposited in her accounts, according to the indictment.
It stopped in October 2021 when the man told his son he’d given his life savings to the woman but was promised he’d be repaid and the son said he’d been scammed, according to the indictment.
An attorney for Stergo wasn’t listed in online federal court documents. A number listed as belonging to her didn’t appear to be operational.
Stergo spent the money on a home, a condo, a boat, trips, cars and Rolex watches, prosecutors said.
People lost more than $1 billion in romance scams across the U.S. in 2021, the FBI said in February. There were around 24,000 victims that year, the agency said.