A Florida woman pleaded guilty to allegedly duping an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor out of more than $2.8 million after meeting him on a dating website, prosecutors said.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The charge has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors said that Stergo, also known as “Alice” in court documents, “lived a life of luxury,” buying a Corvette and a home in a gated community, the release stated. Stergo also allegedly took vacations at luxury hotels and bought thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing while draining the victim’s bank account.
According to prosecutors, Stergo met the victim on a dating site when he was living in New York City about six or seven years ago.
Sometime in 2017, Stergo asked for a loan from the victim to pay her attorney, who she said was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement, according to the news release. She later allegedly said the settlement money was deposited into her bank account, but records showed that she never received cash from any settlement.
According to the news release, Stergo demanded that the victim deposit money into her accounts over the next four-and-a-half years so they would not be frozen, allegedly making her incapable of paying back the loans.
The victim wrote Stergo 62 checks that were deposited into two of her accounts, prosecutors said.
She also faked emails and invoices, NBC News reported.
The victim’s son eventually learned of the scam, but it was too late. The victim lost his life savings and had to give up his Manhattan apartment, according to the news outlet.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, losses from romance scams hit a record $547 million in 2021. That was more than six times the amount lost in 2017, which was approximately $87 million.
“This conduct is sick — and sad,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
Stergo will be sentenced on July 27, according to the news release.