A Florida woman was sentenced to four years in prison after she was found guilty of scamming an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, siphoning his life savings in a romance scam.
The thirty-six-year-old woman, Peaches Stergo, scammed over $2.8 million from the victim since 2017. She then used the money made from the scam to live a “life of luxury”, prosecutors said.
During the hearing, Stergo pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in April, and US District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who was presiding over the case, termed her scam “unspeakably cruel”.
He then sentenced her to 51 months in prison and ordered her to pay $2.83 million in restitution.
Stergo first met the Holocaust survivor online on a dating website prosecutors with the US Southern District of New York said.
They recounted that she began “borrowing” money from the victim to help her get funds from a legal settlement that, according to prosecutors, did not exist.
Over the next several years, Stergo demanded that the elderly man deposit money in her bank account, or it would be frozen, making her unable to pay him back.
She “callously defrauded an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor who was simply looking for companionship”, prosecutors argued.
Her deeds made all the worse by the fact that she used the scammed money to buy a home in a gated community and stay at luxury hotels.
Meanwhile, the Holocaust survivor lost his apartment and his life’s saving.
Prosecutors also brought to light the woman’s messages to her real lover in which she mocked the victim. She told her lover that the elderly man said he “loved her”. She then texted”lol”.
She even joked the victim was “broke” and he “doesn’t have anything else to pawn”.
It was revealed through these text messages that Stergo had scammed the man because she did not want to work.
“I don’t want to work… it’s too hard,” one of her texts read.
Over the years, he ended up giving 62 cheques to Stergo. Only after he told his son about the situation did the scam finally end.
The court ordered Stergo to evacuate her home and forfeit over 100 luxury items.
Later, according to BBC, her lawyer told US media that she had “expressed remorse for her actions and will make every effort to repay the restitution in this case”.
“In previous court documents, her lawyer argued she suffered from childhood trauma that made her prone to compulsive behaviours like participating in scams,” BBC added.