A New York judge has sentenced a Florida woman to more than four years in prison for swindling a Holocaust survivor out of his life savings after meeting him on a dating website.
Peaches Stergo, 36, was sentenced Thursday, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. She had been charged six months earlier with one count of wire fraud for bilking the 87-year-old victim out of $2.8 million.
Prosecutors said Stergo and the victim met on the website about seven years ago. Over the next four and a half years, Stergo asked the victim to deposit money into her account for a variety of fraudulent reasons, such as paying lawyers to release a fake injury settlement.
According to prosecutors, Stergo used the money to live a life of luxury. She purchased a home in a gated community in Florida, took vacations at hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, and bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing, the release stated.
In a text message to her real-life significant other after the scam was over, Stergo said she was unwilling to earn money through lawful employment, writing, “I don’t want to work … it’s too hard,” the release stated.
The victim only learned of Stergo’s scam after he confided in his son that his life savings had gone to her after she promised she would pay him back, CNN reported this year. The victim then stopped writing checks.
As a result of Stergo’s scams, the victim lost his apartment, CNN previously reported.
Woman was ‘unspeakably cruel,’ judge says
US Attorney Damian Williams, who prosecuted the case, said in the release, “(Stergo) used the millions of dollars in fraud proceeds to live a life of luxury at the victim’s expense. But she did not get away with it.”
US District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who sentenced Stergo, noted her behavior was “unspeakably cruel’ and motivated by ‘greed,”’ the release stated.
Ann Marie Fitz, Stergo’s defense attorney, said in a statement to CNN, “The government sought a 96-month sentence in this case and, considering the circumstances, we think it was fair that the court imposed 51 months, which is the low-end of the applicable Guidelines range. Ms. Stergo has expressed remorse for her actions and will make every effort to repay the restitution in this case.”
In addition to her time in prison, Stergo is ordered to pay $2,830,775 in restitution and will forfeit the same amount, along with her Florida property and over 100 luxury items she purchased.