Woman accused in Newtown charity scam says Facebook group framed her
(CNN) — Federal authorities arrested a 37-year-old Bronx woman on Thursday after she allegedly concocted a ruse in the wake of the Connecticut mass shooting and posed as a relative of one of the slain children.
Nouel Alba is accused of using her Facebook account to solicit money from those wanting to donate to victims’ families, claiming that the money was to be used for a “funeral fund,” according to a U.S. Justice Department statement.
The donors apparently transmitted the money to a PayPal account controlled by Alba, who later allegedly lied about the scam to federal investigators, prosecutors said.
“This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from this tragedy by contriving fraudulent schemes that exploit the many victims, their families and individuals who sincerely want to help,” said Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein in a statement.
On December 14, a 20-year old gunman opened fired in Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 people just after he killed his mother in their Newtown home.
Alba has since been charged with lying to federal agents and was released on $50,000 bond. If convicted, she faces up to five years in jail and a maximum $250,000 fine.
On December 20, CNN’s “AC360” broadcast a story about the alleged ruse and interviewed Alba, who denied her involvement in the alleged scam.
“This says — this has your e-mail on it. Right there,” said CNN investigative producer David Fitzpatrick. “This is about Noah Pozner’s funeral.”
“I never sent that,” Alba replied.
Later, in the interview Alba identified one of her e-mail accounts presented by Fitzpatrick.
“Yeah, that’s one of my gmails …Yeah, my personal account,” she said during the interview. “But I never set up any funds for anybody.”
Later, Alba went on to say that she refunded all of the donations that she had received, and that she had been set up for the crime by members of a scrap booking community that she has interacted with on Facebook.
In her alleged search for donations, the FBI said Alba posed as an aunt of one of the shooting victims, saying she went into the crime scene to help identify the body of her nephew and even met with the President.
Pozner’s family issued a statement saying, “We are pleased that law enforcement has pursued this matter so diligently. We hope that this dissuades other scammers from trying to take advantage of this horrible tragedy.”