Florida Woman Arrested For Defrauding Holocaust Survivor Of $2.8 Million In Connection With Romance Scam

Published 1:25 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment today charging PEACHES STERGO with engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of his life savings.  STERGO was arrested today and will be presented in the Middle District of Florida.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “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.  Stergo forged documents and impersonated a bank employee in exchange for a life of fancy trips, Rolex watches, and luxury purchases.  Today’s arrest reemphasizes this Office’s commitment to seeking justice for victims of financial frauds.”

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said: “Today 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.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, which was unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

From at least in or about May 2017, up to and including at least October 2021, STERGO engaged in a scheme to defraud an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor (the “Victim”) of over $2.8 million, which was his life savings.

STERGO met the Victim on a dating website approximately six or seven years ago.  In or about early 2017, STERGO asked the Victim to borrow money to pay her lawyer, who she claimed was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement.  After the Victim gave her the money, STERGO said the settlement funds had been deposited into her TD Bank account.  In reality, bank records show STERGO never received any money from an injury settlement.

Over the next four and a half years, STERGO continued her lies.  She repeatedly demanded that the Victim deposit money into her bank accounts.  She claimed that if he did not, her accounts would be frozen, and he would never be paid back.  In total, the Victim wrote 62 checks — totaling over $2.8 million — that were deposited into one of two of STERGO’s bank accounts.

In furtherance of the fraud, STERGO created a fake email account, intended to appear as if it belonged to a TD Bank employee.  She also created fake letters from a TD Bank employee and fake invoices.

While the Victim lost his life savings and was forced to give up his apartment, STERGO lived a life of luxury with the millions she received from the fraud: she bought a home in a gated community, a condominium, a boat, and numerous cars, including a Corvette and a Suburban.  During the course of the fraud, STERGO also took expensive trips, staying at places like the Ritz Carlton, and spent many tens of thousands of dollars on expensive meals, gold coins and bars, jewelry, Rolex watches, and designer clothing from stores like Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes.

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STERGO, 36, of Champions Gate, Florida, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Sowlati is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.