“Today we allege the defendant callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a news release issued by the Department of Justice on Wednesday. “The FBI is determined to get justice for victims of fraud and to ensure that scammers face justice for their actions.”
In the indictment, available here, it’s alleged that the scam in question began “in or about” May 2017 and lasted until “at least” October 2021. It is alleged to have been carried out by a 36-year-old woman from Florida named Peaches Stergo, also known as Alice.
The victim, described in the indictment as an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, first met Stergo on a dating site. From there, Stergo is accused of making a series of “false and misleading statements” to the victim, including claiming that she had settled a lawsuit over a car accident but could not access the awarded funds due to a lawyer’s demand for money. At this point, prosecutors allege, the victim wrote what marked his first check to Stergo. The check was for $25,000.
The lies (complete with falsified bank documents) are alleged to have continued to stack up in subsequent years, with “Alice” convincing the victim to send her large amounts of money on an almost monthly basis. By the end of the scam, the victim is said to have written 62 checks to the alleged perpetrator, ultimately amount of more than $2.8 million.
As for what Stergo is alleged to have done with the fraudulently obtained money, the list of purchases excerpted in the indictment includes “a home in a gated community,” a condo, multiple cars, a boat, pricey vacations, gold coins, Rolexes, Louis Vuitton pieces, and more.
Stergo has now been charged with wire fraud and faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years behind bars.