ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando woman was arrested Wednesday, accused of a romance scam that drained an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of his life savings, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Prosecutors and the FBI say Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, met the victim on a dating website six or seven years ago, and in 2017 asked to borrow money to pay a lawyer who was refusing to release funds from an injury settlement.
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According to the federal indictment, over the next few years, Stergo repeatedly demanded the victim deposit money into her bank accounts, saying if he didn’t they would be frozen and he would never get his money back. Prosecutors say Stergo also created a fake email address, claiming to belong to a TD Bank employee, along with fake letters and invoices.
The victim wrote checks totaling $2.8 million, prosecutors say. His life savings were drained, and he was forced to give up his apartment.
Prosecutors say Stergo, meanwhile, bought a home in a gated community, several cars, a boat, gold, Rolex watches, designer clothes and took expensive trips.
Stergo is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Any sentence will be decided by a federal judge.
Romance scam losses have skyrocketed in the last few years, according to the Florida Trade Commission. In 2021, reported losses reached $547 million, up from $307 million in 2020, and from only $87 million in 2017.
If you want to share a story involving an online romance scam, please send an email to Mike Holfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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