Florida woman who stole nearly $3 million from Holocaust survivor gets over 4 years in prison

Jul 27, 2023, 3:31 PM | Updated: 9:38 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida woman who drained an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor’s life savings by posing as a love interest and then lived lavishly off the $2.8 million she got was sentenced Thursday to over four years in prison.

Peaches Stergo, 36, of Champions Gate, Florida, was described by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos as “unspeakably cruel” and motivated by greed as he announced the sentence in Manhattan federal court.

Given a chance to speak, Stergo said: “I’m sorry.” She pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud, admitting that she drained the life savings of a man she met on a dating website seven years ago.

Stergo began asking the once successful businessman for money in May 2017, claiming she needed money to pay a lawyer who was refusing to release the payout from a bogus injury settlement, prosecutors said. He paid her $25,000. Over the next four years, she used lies to coax the man to write 62 checks totaling over $2.8 million until he was broke, they added.

She got him to send as much as $50,000 at a time as she told desperate lies and faked letters from a bank employee to back up her claims, prosecutors said.

They said Stergo traveled to New York to visit the victim in his Manhattan apartment, falsely claiming she was a Florida nanny and her name was “Alice” and failing to reveal that she was in a long-term relationship with another man and had two children.

As the victim lost his life savings and was forced to surrender his apartment, Stergo used his money to live a life of luxury, traveling on expensive trips to Europe and Las Vegas when she wasn’t living in her gated community or using her boat and numerous cars, including a Corvette and a Suburban, prosecutors said.

They said she spent nearly all of the man’s money, including thousands of dollars for expensive meals, gold coins and bars, jewelry, Rolex watches and designer clothing.

As part of her sentence, she faces a $2.8 restitution and forfeiture order.

“Peaches Stergo callously defrauded an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor who was simply looking for companionship,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “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.”

Prosecutors said Stergo had mocked her victim when she told her real lover in a message that the victim had said he “loved” her. They said she followed that message with “lol.” And they said that when he ran out of money, she convinced him to sell his inventory of diamonds and borrow from others.

Prosecutors did not identify the victim, but they said he suffers from cognitive decline, among other health issues, and is frail.

In a letter to the judge, the victim, who was 6 when he lost both of his parents in the Holocaust and who moved to the United States in his early 20s, wrote: “As a Holocaust survivor, I have endured unspeakable pain and loss in my life, but never did I imagine that I would be subjected to such a heartless betrayal in my old age.”

Stergo’s lawyer, Ann Marie Fitz, wrote in a sentencing submission that Stergo is a partner to her long-time boyfriend and mother to two teenage boys and that her boyfriend describes her as a great mother and a born-again Christian.

“She is not the cold-hearted person the government and media have made her out to be,” the lawyer wrote. “There was a genuine, caring relationship that Ms. Stergo had with the victim in this case — she spent holidays with him, she took care of him when he was ill and, as the victim’s cousin described, she was ‘doting’ on him.”

National News

Associated Press

An ex-investigative journalist is sentenced to 6 years in a child sexual abuse materials case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former investigative journalist for ABC News was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for possessing and transporting child sexual abuse images. James Gordon Meek, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty in July, admitting in a plea agreement that he used an iPhone to exchange illicit materials during a chat […]

31 minutes ago

Associated Press

Dad who won appeal in college admissions bribery case gets 6 months home confinement for tax offense

BOSTON (AP) — A former Staples Inc. executive whose fraud and bribery convictions in the sprawling college admissions cheating scandal were thrown out by an appeals court was sentenced on Friday to six months of home confinement for a tax offense. John Wilson, 64, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced in Boston’s federal appeals court months […]

34 minutes ago

Associated Press

Subway franchise owners must pay workers nearly $1M – and also sell or close their stores

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal court ordered the owners of 14 Subway locations north of San Francisco to pay employees nearly $1 million in damages and back pay — and also to sell or shut their businesses, with any sale proceeds going to the Department of Labor. Federal investigators said franchise owners John and […]

40 minutes ago

Associated Press

2 Indianapolis officers indicted for shooting Black man who was sleeping in his car, prosecutor says

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers for shooting a Black man who was sleeping in a car parked outside his grandmother’s house, a prosecutor said Friday. Officers Carl Chandler and Alexander Gregory were indicted on battery and criminal recklessness charges in connection with the Dec. 31 predawn […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Rounded up! South Dakota cowboys and cowgirls rustle up hundreds of bison in nation’s only roundup

South Dakota cowboys and cowgirls rounded up a herd of more than 1,500 bison Friday as part of an annual effort to maintain the health of the species, which has rebounded from near-extinction. Visitors from across the world cheered from behind wire fencing as whooping horseback riders chased the thundering, wooly giants across hills and […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

A child sex abuse suspect kills himself after wounding marshals trying to arrest him, police say

IRMO, S.C. (AP) — A man wanted by police for child sex abuse crimes shot and killed himself Friday after wounding two federal marshals trying to arrest him at a South Carolina hotel, investigators said. A special team of U.S. Marshals was trying to arrest George Curtis at an extended stay hotel near Columbia when […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Florida woman who stole nearly $3 million from Holocaust survivor gets over 4 years in prison