A Florida woman has been arrested and charged with defrauding an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor in what federal prosecutors describe as a years-long romance scam.
Peaches Stergo was believed to have met the unnamed victim on a dating site in 2017 and swindled him out of $2.8 million over a four-and-a-half year period, an unsealed indictment from the Department of Justice showed.
Ms Stergo initially asked the victim if she could borrow money to pay her lawyer, whom she claimed refused to release money from a personal injury settlement.
After the victim had given her the money, Ms Stergo told him the settlement funds had been deposited into her bank account. But bank records showed she never received money from an injury settlement, prosecutors said.
The Holocaust survivor wrote Ms Stergo 62 cheques totalling $2.8 million that were deposited into one of her two bank accounts.
She is also accused of creating a fake email account along with letters and invoices to falsify the identity of a bank employee, prosecutors said.
“Today we allege the accused callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” said FBI Assistant Director Michael Driscoll.
“The FBI is determined to get justice for victims of fraud and to ensure that scammers face justice for their actions.”
Lawyer Damian Williams said: “Ms Stergo forged documents and impersonated a bank employee in exchange for a life of fancy trips, Rolex watches and luxury purchases.”
If convicted on the charge of wire fraud, she would face up to 20 years in prison.