Saturday, March 25

Florida woman accused of using dating site to launch “years-long scheme” to defraud Holocaust survivor out of $2.8 million

The Department of Justice has arrested a 36-year-old Florida woman after she allegedly committed a “years-long scheme” to defraud an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of his life savings. The department said that over the course of more than four years, Peaches Stergo took over $2.8 million from the survivor. 

Stergo was arrested on Wednesday, with U.S. Attorney Damian Williams saying she “maliciously” drained the unnamed Holocaust survivor’s savings so “she could become a millionaire through fraud.” 

According to the DOJ, Stergo met her victim on a dating website between 2016 and 2017 when he was living in Manhattan. It was at the beginning of 2017 that she then asked him if she could borrow money to pay for her lawyer “who she claimed was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement,” the department said. But bank records allegedly showed that she never received settlement funds. 

That was just the beginning of a series of lies, authorities said. 

Prosecutors say that Stergo repeatedly demanded that the 87-year-old give her money to prevent her accounts from being frozen. Over the course of that time, he wrote 62 checks totaling more than $2.8 million, the DOJ said, adding that she also used a fake email account and created fake letters and invoices that appeared to be from an employee of TD Bank.

That email account, according to the indictment, was used to “repeatedly assure the victim, over the course of months, that he would be repaid if he continued to deposit money” into her bank account.

It wasn’t until around October 2021 that the man she defrauded told his son what had happened.

Stergo was able to use that money to purchase a home in a gated community, a boat and multiple cars, as well as take “expensive trips,” and purchase gold coins and bars, Rolex watches and designer clothing, prosecutors alleged. Meanwhile, the Holocaust survivor has since had to give up his apartment, the DOJ said. 

“Stergo forged documents and impersonated a bank employee in exchange for a life of fancy trips, Rolex watches, and luxury purchases,” Williams said. “Today’s arrest reemphasizes this Office’s commitment to seeking justice for victims of financial frauds.”

The woman, from Champions Gate near Orlando, has been charged with one count of wire fraud, which the DOJ said has a maximum sentence of 20 years. 

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