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.
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. (Read more scam stories.)