Peaches "April" Stergo, 36, is accused of stealing $2.8 million from an unidentified 87-year-old man in what prosecutors are calling a "romance scam."
He was an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor from New York looking for companionship. She was a 36-year-old woman from Florida looking for an easy target. It was a match made in hell for the older man, who lost his $2.8-million life savings in what federal prosecutors call a “malicious” romance scam.
The 87-year-old, who has not been named, reportedly met Peaches “April” Stergo, 36, on a dating site six to seven years ago. Federal prosecutors say that the lies in their relationship began in 2017.
According to a federal indictment, Stergo’s first swindle involved asking the man for money to pay off a personal injury attorney.
“Stergo told the victim that she had settled a lawsuit involving injuries she suffered in a car accident, but that her lawyer would not release the settlement funds unless he received a certain amount of money,” the indictment reads.
“Stergo asked the victim if she could borrow from him to pay the lawyer. In May 2017, bank records show the victim wrote his first check to Stergo for $25,000.” A review of Stergo’s own bank records found that she never received any injury settlement funds.
The lies continued to pile up for another four and a half years after the initial transfer. The man would write almost monthly checks for as much as $50,000 to Stergo. With every check came another excuse for more money, according to the indictment. Stergo reportedly falsely claimed that she required more money to keep her bank accounts from freezing, and that she would repay the man back as soon as possible. He never received a penny over the course of their relationship.
According to the indictment, Stergo tried to give credence to her lies by creating a fake email account made to impersonate a TD Bank employee. She created fake invoices and letters to send to the man’s bank once it became suspicious of the repeated money transfers.
Over the course of the scam, the man sent a total of 62 checks to Stergo: a whopping $2.8 million in total.
The scam took a massive financial toll on the man, the indictment states. And while he was packing up his apartment due to his inability to pay rent, Stergo was living large.
“She bought a home in a gated community, a condominium, a boat, and numerous cars, including a Corvette and a Suburban,” federal prosecutors stated.
Stergo also reportedly took expensive trips, staying at places like the Ritz Carlton, and spending tens of thousands of dollars on meals, gold, jewelry, Rolex watches, and designer clothing from stores like Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes.
The scam eventually fell apart in October 2021 when the man confided to his son that “over time, he had given his life savings” to Stergo.
“The victim’s son told his father that he had been scammed,” the indictment reads. “After that, the victim stopped writing checks to Stergo.”
Stergo was arrested at her home in Champions Gate, Florida, this week, and is scheduled to appear in New York federal court on wire-fraud charges — which could carry a 20-year prison sentence.
According to Law & Crime, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York want Stergo to forfeit all money and luxury goods.
“Today we allege the defendant callously preyed on a senior citizen simply seeking companionship, defrauding him of his life savings,” FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll stated as the wire-fraud indictment against Stergo was announced.
According to the FBI, 24,000 people in the United States fell victim to so-called “romance scams” in 2021. The estimated amount of money lost in these scams reached over $1 billion in 2021 alone.
After reading about this multi-million-dollar romance scam, read about nine of history’s most infamous con artists. Then, read about the deadly lengths Alex Murdaugh went to collect his $10-million life insurance policy.