A ChampionsGate woman was arrested Wednesday for defrauding an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of $2.8 million through a romance scam, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The 36-year-old woman, Peaches Stergo, used a years-long scam to steal the unnamed victim’s life savings. She was arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud, and is now facing up to 20 years in prison.
Stergo, who went by “Alice” during her scam, met the Manhattan-based man six or seven years ago on a dating website, according to the Department of Justice indictment. She first asked to borrow money from the victim in early 2017, claiming she needed to pay her lawyer, who was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement.
In May 2017, the victim sent his first check to Stergo for $25,000. The lies continued for the next four and a half years.
The 87-year-old wrote Stergo almost monthly checks, often in increments of $50,000.
She justified her demands by saying her bank needed more money or else it would freeze her account, preventing Stergo from paying her victim back. She was also found to have impersonated bank employees and forged documents.
“The victim continued to write checks because he was afraid he would never see his money again. In total, the victim wrote 62 checks — totaling over $2.8 million,” the indictment states.
Stergo was well on her way to a life of even more luxury, until her victim’s son discovered the situation and stopped his father from sending any more money in October 2021. By this time, she had already accumulated a home in a gated community, a condominium, a boat and several cars (including a Corvette and a Suburban). She used the money to go on extravagant trips and spent thousands on expensive meals, jewelry, Rolex watches, designer clothing, and gold coins and bars. Meanwhile, her victim was forced to give up his apartment.
Along with the unnamed Holocaust survivor, the U.S. saw about 24,000 victims of romance scams in 2021, totaling more than $1 billion lost, according to an FBI report.
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