ORLANDO, Fla. (TCD) -- A 36-year-old woman is accused of defrauding an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of his life savings in a romance scam over the course of several years.
According to the indictment, about six or seven years ago, Peaches Stergo met the victim, who lived in Manhattan at the time, on a dating website. In early 2017, she reportedly asked the victim if she could borrow money from him for a car accident injury lawsuit she had settled. The victim allegedly wrote her a check for $25,000.
The indictment alleges that Stergo "falsely told the Victim that the settlement funds from the lawsuit had been deposited into her TD Bank account." However, she reportedly did not receive the injury settlement money.
Stergo reportedly lied to the victim to get him to send her money from May 2017 through October 2021, and he would often send her $50,000 checks monthly.
According to the indictment, "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."
The victim reportedly wrote 62 checks to Stergo, totaling over $2.8 million. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Stergo "falsified documents and emails to perpetuate the fraud."
She reportedly impersonated a TD Bank employee, created a fake email account, and would converse with the victim through that email address, telling him he would be repaid if he kept writing checks to Stergo.
Stergo allegedly created fake letters for the bank and fake invoices intended for the victim as well.
According to the indictment, the victim told his son that he had been "drained" of his life savings, but he believed he would be repaid. The son then reportedly told his father he thought it was a scam, and the victim discontinued the checks to Stergo.
Due to the fraud, the victim reportedly "lost his life savings and was forced to give up his apartment."
However, Stergo lived a "life of luxury with the millions she received from the fraud," according to the indictment. She reportedly bought a house in a gated community, as well as a condo, a boat, and expensive cars. Additionally, Stergo allegedly went on luxury vacations and spent money on Rolex watches and designer clothes.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Stergo stands accused of "maliciously draining his life savings so she could become a millionaire through fraud."
FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll added, "We allege the defendant callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings. The FBI is determined to get justice for victims of fraud and to ensure that scammers face justice for their actions."