A Florida woman named Peaches Stergo was arrested Wednesday for allegedly defrauding an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor out of his life savings as part of a years-long romance scam, but it seems the $2.8 million payday was not her first rodeo. Around 2012, according to social media profiles located by Rolling Stone, it appears she tried her hand at that old standby, posing as a psychic. Perhaps she should have been able to foretell how cheating the survivor of one of the world’s greatest atrocities out of his nest egg could have turned out.
According to a federal indictment, Stergo was charged with one count of wire fraud after allegedly posing as a woman named “Alice” on a dating site and targeting an unnamed Manhattan resident, beginning in roughly 2014. In 2017, Stergo told the man she had won a lawsuit as a result of a car accident but had not yet received the funds because her lawyer required payment, according to the state. The man wrote her a check for $25,000 at her insistence, the indictment claims, even though she was not part of such a suit. Stergo allegedly told the man that she required more money or else the bank would freeze her account and she wouldn’t be able to pay him back. The indictment says that she also posed as a bank employee to facilitate the ruse. Stergo has not yet entered a plea.
Over the years, the man wrote Stergo 62 checks totaling $2.8 million, which she allegedly used to purchase several homes, cars, designer clothing, trips, and, curiously, gold and silver bars. Stergo’s alleged scheme came to an end in 2021 when the man confessed to his son that he had lost his life savings. Stergo could face 20 years in prison if she’s convicted.
“As alleged, for years, Stergo deceived an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, maliciously draining his life savings so she could become a millionaire through fraud,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.
Not long before Stergo allegedly began targeting the Holocaust survivor, according to profiles located by Rolling Stone, she appears to have begun posing as a woman named “Miss Watson,” who claimed to be a psychic, on Facebook and Instagram. The profile on Facebook was created in 2012, it seems, and the one on Instagram in 2016. Both profiles list a phone number registered to Stergo as the hotline in question, and one of Watson’s three Facebook friends is a man who, according to public records, resides in her Florida home; according to his Facebook status, he is her husband. The Instagram profile, which features photos of Tarot cards and various crystals, touts chakra readings, love spells, and crystal healing. However, it appears as though Stergo abandoned the pages not long after creating them, perhaps because “Alice” was then in play. Neither Stergo nor her husband immediately returned Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.