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

Ex-CEO of Nevada-based health care company Ontrak convicted of $12.5 million insider trading scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former CEO and chairman of Ontrak, a publicly traded health care company based in Nevada, was found guilty Friday of a multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Terren Scott Peizer, a resident of Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California, of one count of securities fraud […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Lockheed Martin subsidiaries reach $70 million settlement for claims they overcharged Navy for parts

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two Lockheed Martin subsidiaries have agreed to pay the federal government $70 million for overcharging the Navy for aircraft parts, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. The federal agency says Sikorsky Support Services, based in Stratford, Connecticut, and Derco Aerospace, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, knowingly entered into an improper subcontract […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Man accused in killing and kidnappings in Louisiana waives extradition

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A man arrested in the slaying of a Louisiana woman and abduction of her two daughters and subsequent death of one of them waived extradition Friday in federal court in Mississippi, clearing the way for his return to Louisiana to face trial. During his court appearance in Jackson, Daniel Callihan, 36, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An 88-year-old Montana man has been sentenced to two years in a federal prison medical facility for being the getaway driver in two bank robberies in Billings last summer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said. The man was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to two counts of bank […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. ___ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Mitch Landrieu, national co-chair of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign; Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. ___ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; former national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien; former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell. […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

At least 6 heat-related deaths reported in metro Phoenix so far this year as high hits 115 degrees

PHOENIX (AP) — At least six people have died from heat-related causes this year so far in sizzling metro Phoenix, where the temperatures this week hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius), Arizona’s Maricopa Department of Public Health reported this week. Another 87 deaths are under investigation for possible heat-related causes through last Saturday, public health […]

5 hours ago

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