Jan. 26 (UPI) — A Florida woman has been arrested for defrauding a Holocaust survivor out of his life savings of $2.8 million, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, Fla., is accused of faking a romance with the 87-year-old victim to scam him out of millions of dollars, according to the indictment which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
“Today we allege the defendant callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” FBI Assistant Director Michael Driscoll said.
According to the indictment, Stergo met the victim on a dating website and then began to drain his life savings. In 2017, she asked to borrow $25,000 to pay her lawyer, who she accused of refusing to release funds from an injury settlement. While there was no injury settlement, the indictment says Stergo deposited the victim’s money into her account.
The Justice Department said Stergo spent the next four years demanding the victim deposit money into her bank accounts with the promise of paying him back. In all, the victim wrote 62 checks, totaling over $2.8 million.
“The victim wrote almost monthly checks to Stergo, often in increments of $50,000,” the indictment said. “After each check was deposited, Stergo told the victim that her bank needed more money, otherwise the accounts would be frozen and the victim would never be paid back.”
Stergo is also accused of creating a fake email account, fake letters and fake invoices for a TD Bank employee to support her claims.
“Stergo forged documents and impersonated a bank employee in exchange for a life of fancy trips, Rolex watches and luxury purchases,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.
According to the indictment, Stergo bought a home in a gated community, a condominium, a boat and numerous cars, as the victim was forced to give up his apartment. She also took expensive trips, dined on expensive meals, and purchased jewelry and designer clothing from stores like Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.
Stergo has been charged with one count of wire fraud. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.