The Florida woman who stole nearly $3 million dollars by exploiting a Holocaust survivor has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Peaches Stergo, 36, pleaded guilty to wire fraud after posing as a suitor for the 87-year-old man.
“Peaches Stergo callously defrauded an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor who was simply looking for companionship,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “But she did not get away with it. As today’s sentence demonstrates, perpetrators of romance scams will be held to account for their crimes.”
In addition to the prison time, Stergo also agreed to pay $2,830,775 in restitution and forfeit the various luxury items that she purchased.
She met the victim on a dating website several years ago. She then started asking to borrow money to pay an attorney in early 2017 so that he would release funds from an injury settlement that did not exist, according to the indictment.
No settlement funds were ever deposited to her account, but she repeatedly demanded more money over four and a half years from the victim, who wrote 62 checks totaling over $2.8 million.
Stergo also impersonated a TD Bank employee and created fake invoices from the bank to trick the elderly victim, according to the indictment.
Over the course of the fraud, Stergo bought designers clothes from stores like Louis Vuitton and Hermes; bought a boat and multiples cars, including a Corvette and Suburban; and went on expensive vacations where she stayed at places like the Ritz-Carlton.
Meanwhile, the victim lost his life savings and apartment during the scam.
The elderly victim of Stergo’s scam was not publicly identified by prosecutors but suffers from cognitive decline. After he ran out of money, Stergo urged him to sell off assets and borrow money to continue the cash flow, prosecutors said.
“As a Holocaust survivor, I have endured unspeakable pain and loss in my life, but never did I imagine that I would be subjected to such a heartless betrayal in my old age,” the unidentified victim, whose parents were killed when he was 6, wrote. The man moved to the United States while in his early 20s.
As more Americans have turned to online dating in search of love, romance scams have been on the rise. An estimated 73,000 Americans were defrauded out of a record $1 billion in 2022, according to the consumer group Comparitech.
Fox News Digital’s Paul Best contributed to this report.