A 36-year-old woman will spend the next four years in prison for swindling over $2.8 million from an 87-year-old man. A judge sentenced Peaches Stergo on Thursday (Jul. 27)–months after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud in April.
The Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office says Stergo ran a “romance scam” on the elderly Holocaust survivor. She cleared his life savings.
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The victim’s name was not released, but his parents reportedly died in the Holocaust. In their sentencing request, prosecutors included an excerpt of the victim’s impact statement, per NBC News. He relocated to the United States during his 20s in search of a better life. Now, he believes his life will end with nothing to his name.
“Over the next 60 years, I worked tirelessly to establish a successful business, family, and home in New York. I am now 88 years old, and the last thing I expected was to finish my days in the same manner that I started them–penniless and betrayed,” the Holocaust survivor said.
Q&A: Inner City Press interviewed Ann Fitz, lawyer for Peaches Stergo after she got 51 months for defrauding an 87 year old Holocaust survivor out of his life savings. Q: Why didn’t the defense mention the Holocaust? A: She didn’t target him for that. But she knew pic.twitter.com/FAMzfljO0A
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) July 27, 2023
How Peaches Stergo Scammed Over $2.8 Million From A Holocaust Survivor
Police arrested Peaches Stergo in January after the victim’s son became aware of the financially-draining situation.
Peaches first met the victim on a dating website seven years ago. By May 2017, she had requested his financial help to allegedly pay a lawyer. Her story was that she won an injury settlement, but her lawyer was withholding it, awaiting his fee payment.
After the victim abided by her request, Stergo claimed her settlement coins were available in her TD Bank account. Citing bank records, prosecutors uncovered that she never received any injury settlement money.
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Over the next four years, the victim wrote 62 checks to Peaches. She frequently demanded he deposit money into her accounts, lying about them being frozen if he didn’t.
She kept up her fraudulent charade with accessories like fake invoices, “a fake email account intended to appear as if it belonged to a TD Bank employee,” and “fake letters from a TD Bank employee.”
Peaches Stergo Spent Victim’s Life Savings On A Home, Trips & Luxury Items
Stergo drained the victim’s funds to the point that he was forced to give up his apartment. Meanwhile, she used that $2.8 million to live a luxurious lifestyle with a real lover. The district attorney’s office statement revealed Peaches purchased a home in a gated community, a condo, and a boat. She also bought several cars, including a Corvette and Suburban.
The scheming jet-setter also “took expensive trips,” stayed in luxury hotels like the Ritz Carlton, and spent “tens of thousands of dollars on expensive meals, gold coins, and bars, jewelry, and Rolex watches. Stergo even upgraded her wardrobe with pieces from Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes.
When the Holocaust survivor finally stopped sending her money, Peaches was upset–sentiments she revealed in a text, per prosecutors.
“I am just aggravated, hurt, frustrated that I haven’t made money….I don’t want to work…it’s too hard,” Stergo wrote.
To the outside world, Stergo described her elaborate romance scam as her “business.” Meanwhile, her real lover seemed privy to her scheme. According to uncovered text messages, Peaches made fun of the Holocaust survivor after he told her he loved her. She also joked about him being “broke” with nothing else “to pawn.”
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:
“Peaches Stergo callously defrauded an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor who was simply looking for companionship. She used the millions of dollars in fraud proceeds to live a life of luxury at the victim’s expense. 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.”
The sentencing official, Judge Edgardo Ramos, agreed with Williams, saying Peaches’ conduct was “unspeakably cruel” and motivated by “greed.”
In addition to 51 months in prison, Stergo got three years of supervised release. She also has to forfeit and pay $2,830,775 in restitution. Stergo also has to forfeit her gated community home and over 100 luxury items.