A 36-year-old Florida woman was arrested after federal authorities said she swindled $2,8 million from a Holocaust survivor in a "multi-year scheme" that began on a dating app. Writes about it USA Today.
U.S. Attorney's Office said that Peaches Stergo of Champions Gate, Florida, has been arrested.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said that Stergo "maliciously" took away an 87-year-old man's savings in order to "become a millionaire through fraud" herself.
“Stergo forged documents and posed as a bank employee. She led a chic lifestyle making fashion trips, buying Rolex watches and other luxury items,” Williams explained.
Stergo met an unnamed Holocaust survivor on a dating app six to seven years ago.
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Around the beginning of 2017, Stergo told the victim that she had settled a lawsuit related to injuries she sustained in a car accident, but that she would not receive her settlement funds unless her lawyers received "a certain amount of money."
Bank records showed that the human victim gave Stergo $25, although authorities said she never received the money to make amends.
From 2017 to October 2021, Stergo “lied repeatedly” to this man in order to get him to send money. She received nearly $50 monthly, telling the victim that her bank needed more money or he would never get his money back.
“The victim kept writing checks because he was afraid he would never see his money again. In total, he wrote 62 checks totaling more than $2,8 million,” the indictment says.
According to authorities, Stergo created a fake email account and posed as a bank employee, and created fake letters and fake invoices that she sent to the victim.
The man stopped writing checks to the scammer around October 2021 after he told his son about the situation. He told his father that he was deceived.
Life in luxury
According to the prosecutor, Stergo was able to live a luxurious life with all the money she received, while the Holocaust survivor lost his savings and was forced to give up his apartment.
Here is what the authorities said the scammer bought with the millions of dollars she received:
- house in gated community
- a boat
- numerous cars, including Corvette and Suburban
- expensive travel
- expensive meals
- gold coins, jewelry, Rolex watches and designer clothes.
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Stergo was charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
In 2021, almost 24 people lost about $000 billion to romance scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The agency calls a romantic scam where “the perpetrator uses a fake online identity to gain the victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or intimate relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim."
The FBI advises people never to send money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to anyone they know only online, “no matter how much you are in love or how they say they are in love with you.”
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