A Holocaust survivor had his life savings cheated by a woman he met on a dating site, prosecutors say in the latest romance scam targeting the elderly.
Peaches Stergo, a 36-year-old Florida woman also known as Alice, was arrested Wednesday on wire fraud charges for allegedly tricking an 87-year-old man out of more than $2.8 million she used to buy Rolex watches, a boat and other luxury items, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced today.
“Defendant brutally attacked an elderly person who was simply looking for companionship, frustrating him of his life savings,” said Michael J. Driscoll, deputy director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, during the interview. announcement of the charges.
The allegations are the latest in what has been a growing trend of scammers targeting matchmaking website users. Romance scams have become prominent cautionary tales in popular streaming series, such as Netflix’s “The Tinder Swindler,” which told the stories of several women who said they had been scammed by the same man they had met. on the dating app.
The Federal Trade Commission said losses from romance scams hit a record $547 million in 2021, more than six times the $87 million lost in 2017. It has hit the senior community harder than seniors. other age groups.
Stergo, according to the indictment, met the unidentified victim, then a Manhattan resident, on a dating site six or seven years ago. In 2017, she asked him for money to pay her attorney so she could receive the settlement funds she claimed were owed to her, prosecutors say. The settlement, according to prosecutors, did not exist.
Over the next five years, prosecutors say, Stergo fed the victim continuous lies to receive near-monthly checks, often in $50,000 increments. She pretended to be a bank employee, sent fake bills and created a fake email account to reassure the victim that he would be reimbursed if he continued to deposit money into the account , according to the indictment.
Stergo used the money to buy a house in a gated community, a condominium, a boat and numerous cars, including a Corvette, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege she also used her money to travel, buy gold and silver bars, jewelry and designer clothes.
CNN attempted to reach Stergo for comment.
In 2021, the alleged victim confided in his son that he gave Stergo his life savings based on his promises of repayment, according to court documents. After her son told her he had been scammed, the victim stopped writing checks. He lost his apartment, according to the indictment.
If found guilty, Stergo faces up to 20 years in prison. She is expected to appear in federal court in Florida.