Federal officials say a woman stole the life savings of a man who lived through the Holocaust and used it to live a “life of luxury” in Florida.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, a town about 25 miles southwest of Orlando, tricked an 87-year-old man she met on a dating site into giving her more than $2.8 million.
The guy who was “looking for companionship” lost his apartment as a result, while Stergo used his money to buy a home in the resort-style, gated neighborhood of Champions Gate, a condo, a boat, cars like a Corvette, vacation stays at hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, and more, prosecutors said.
The attorney’s office said in a news statement that Stergo pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud related to her “romance scam” on April 14.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “This behavior is sick and sad.”
McClatchy News asked Stergo’s lawyer, Ann Fitz, for a comment on April 17, but she refused.
How the Woman Pulled Off the ‘romance Scam’?
Prosecutors say that Stergo met the guy, who lived in Manhattan, New York at the time, on a dating website about six or seven years ago.
According to an accusation, she told him her name was “Alice” and asked to borrow money starting in 2017.
The indictment says Stergo lied when she said she needed money because her lawyer wouldn’t give her what she was supposed to get from a case settlement after she said she was hurt in a car accident.
The accusation says that the man then gave her a check for $25,000.
Stergo told him that the settlement money was finally put into her bank account, but prosecutors said that this wasn’t shown in the bank records.
Prosecutors say that she kept lying to him for the next four and a half years, which led him to write her 62 checks.
Officials say that Stergo told the man that if he didn’t give her money, her bank accounts would freeze and he’d never see his money again.
Prosecutors say that Stergo, pretending to be a TD Bank employee, made up a fake email address and wrote fake letters and bills to support the scam.
The man stopped sending money to Stergo in October 2021, when his son told him that he was being scammed.
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The Woman Spends a Lot of Money
The accusation says that Stergo used the man’s money to buy a four-bedroom, 2,334-square-foot home on Trappers Trail Loop in Champions Gate.
Zillow says the house is worth about $455,800.
The tweet below confirms the news:
'SICK AND SAD': Peaches Stergo "lived a life of luxury" with money she swindled out of a 87-year-old Holocaust survivor. She purchased designer clothing, jewelry, a boat, and multiple cars, according to the indictment. Now she is pleading guilty. https://t.co/UE0PzFYc5D pic.twitter.com/TzIZIdHKKB
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 17, 2023
Prosecutors say she also spent a lot of money on expensive meals, gold coins, and bars, jewelry, Rolex watches, clothes from Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, and brand purses.
Prosecutors say Stergo has decided to pay back $2,830,775 and give back the same amount. She will also give back “over 100 luxury items” she bought with the man’s money.
The release says that she could go to jail for up to 20 years.
Prosecutors said that her punishment hearing will take place on July 27.
Prosecutors didn’t give any more information about the man who lived through the Holocaust. The Holocaust was when Nazi Germany killed 6 million European Jews during World War II.
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