She Left a Holocaust Survivor 'Penniless and Betrayed'

Peaches Stergo, who stole $2.8M from him, is handed a 51-month sentence
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2023 7:50 AM CST
Updated Jul 28, 2023 12:25 PM CDT
Feds: She 'Preyed' on Holocaust Survivor on Dating Website
Peaches Stergo, left, leaves Manhattan federal court, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in New York after she was sentenced to more than four years in prison for cheating an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of $2.8 million.   (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)
UPDATE Jul 28, 2023 12:25 PM CDT

The Florida woman who "deceived an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, maliciously draining his life savings so she could become a millionaire through fraud," will pay for her crime. Peaches Stergo, 36, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in April and was on Thursday sentenced to four years and three months in prison and ordered to pay the amount stolen—$2.8 million—in restitution. NBC News reports prosecutors had sought a term of nearly double that length. The victim said in a letter to the court that he lost his parents in the Holocaust and came to the US in his 20s. "Over the next 60 years, I worked tirelessly to establish a successful business, family, and home in New York. ... The last thing I expected was to finish my days in the same manner that I started them—penniless and betrayed."

Jan 26, 2023 7:50 AM CST

He was an 80-something Holocaust survivor in Manhattan looking for companionship. She was a young woman in Florida who claimed to need a loan. It was the start of a long-running romance scam that would see the victim lose out on $2.8 million, according to the US Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York. Arrested Wednesday, Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, Florida, "callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings," Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said in announcing she'd be charged with one count of wire fraud.

Prosecutors say she met the victim on a dating website before requesting money in 2017. She allegedly claimed she needed $25,000 to pay her attorney, who was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement, though the settlement didn't exist, per CNN. According to prosecutors, Stergo continued to lie to the man, who wrote her 62 checks totalling more than $2.8 million over the next four years. At one point, Stergo allegedly told him her accounts would be frozen, meaning she'd be unable to pay him back, if he didn't send more money. She also allegedly impersonated a bank employee, writing fake emails and invoices to assure the victim that he would be repaid when he became suspicious.

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Meanwhile, she bought a home in a gated community, a condo, a boat, various cars including a Corvette, gold and silver bars, Rolex watches and other jewelry, luxury trips, and designer clothes, the indictment reads, per ABC News. Ultimately, she "deceived an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, maliciously draining his life savings so she could become a millionaire through fraud," said US Attorney Damian Williams. The alleged fraud only came to light in 2021, when the man revealed to his son that his life savings had evaporated. The alleged victim stopped writing checks but then had to give up his apartment, according to prosecutors. Stergo faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. (More scam stories.)

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