A Florida woman has been indicted federally after defrauding a lone Holocaust survivor out of nearly $3 million over several years.
Peaches Stergo, 36, of ChampionsGate, Fla., near Orlando, met the unnamed 87-year-old victim on a dating website “six or seven years ago,” according to the Justice Department and the FBI. Under the pseudonym “Alice,” Stergo began corresponding with the victim and told her that he had recently settled a lawsuit in connection with a car accident. However, he claimed that his lawyer would not release the funds until he was paid and that he did not have enough money to do so.
The victim then sent him a check for $25,000, after which Stergo allegedly told the man that the settlement money had been deposited into his TD Bank account. Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the deputy director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said Stergo had never settled a lawsuit , but he used the fake one. lawsuit as a claim to continue deceiving the victim.
On dozens of occasions, Stergo allegedly convinced the victim that he needed money to prevent his account from being “frozen.” If she did, he allegedly warned her that she wouldn’t be able to pay 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, such as a home in a gated community, a boat, a Corvette, a Suburban, several Rolex watches. and designer clothing from Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and others, according to the indictment. Meanwhile, the victim, who had already been victimized by the Nazis during the Holocaust, lost his apartment and his life savings.
To make the scheme seem more believable, Stergo allegedly sent the victim several forged letters and invoices in the name of a bank employee she had made up. The scam was exposed after the victim admitted to her son that she had lost all her money, although she insisted she would pay him back soon. His son was skeptical and reported the case to the authorities.
“The defendant viciously attacked an elderly person who was simply looking for companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” Driscoll said.
Stergo was arrested in Florida and charged with felony wire fraud, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. It is not clear if she has yet appointed a lawyer to represent her.
H/T: Jesse Kelly
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