A Florida woman is accused of defrauding a Holocaust survivor she met on a dating app of nearly $3 million—his life savings—so she could buy a home in a gated community, a boat, designer clothing from Louis Vuitton and Hermes, jewelry from Tiffany and even a Corvette.
Peaches Stergo, 36, is charged with one count of wire fraud in the alleged romance scam that started in May 2017 and only ended in October 2021 when the 87-year-old victim told his son that he had written dozens of checks totaling over $2.8 million to the woman he knew as “Alice,” according to the indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York reviewed by Oxygen.com.
“As alleged, for years, Stergo, deceived an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, maliciously draining his life savings so she could become a millionaire through fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Damien Williams in the press release.
Stergo told the man she suffered injuries in a car accident, but her lawyer would not release the settlement funds unless he received a certain amount of money, according to the indictment. In May 2017, bank records showed the victim wrote his first of 62 checks to Stergo for $25,000, after she told him she needed to borrow from him to pay the lawyer but would pay him back. The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges the man then began writing almost monthly checks to Stergo, often in increments of $50,000. Stergo allegedly told the victim her bank needed more money to keep her accounts unfrozen. The victim kept writing checks because he was afraid of not being paid back.
“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 in the press release. “The FBI is determined to get justice for victims of fraud and to ensure that scammers face justice for their actions.”
Stergo went to great lengths to keep getting money, according to the indictment.
“For example, she created a fake email account, impersonating a TD Bank employee, and used that email account to repeatedly assure the victim, over the course of months, that he would be repaid if he continued to deposit money into the TD Bank Account,” the indictment stated. “Stergo created fake letters from a TD bank employee which falsely claimed her account had a hold which would only be lifted if many tens of thousands of dollars were deposited into her account.”
After the victim’s bank began questioning the large transfers of money, Stergo allegedly created fake invoices for the victim to provide to his bank, according to the indictment.
“Because of the fraud committed by Peaches Stergo, a/k/a ‘Alice,’ the defendant, the victim lost his life savings and was forced to give up his apartment,” the indictment said.
Meanwhile, Stergo was living a life of luxury on the millions she received in the fraud, and bought a house, condo, boat, numerous cars, and took expensive trips—staying at places like the Ritz Carlton—and spent tens of thousands of dollars on shopping trips, the indictment alleges.
Stergo’s bank accounts show she never received any proceeds from an injury settlement, according to the indictment.
Stergo must forfeit all the money, property and possessions she received during the alleged scam, the affidavit said, including three Rolex watches, and property from luxury brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Tiffany and Yves Saint Laurent.
She is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Since the victim was a resident of Manhattan at the time of the alleged crimes, the case will be tried by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.