NEW YORK, Dec 2 – US authorities on Thursday arrested a woman accused of trying to profit from the massive public outpouring of support over the Newtown school massacre by posing as an aunt of one of the victims.
Nouel Alba, a 37-year-old from the Bronx, faces a five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000 if found guilty of lying about an alleged scheme to hoodwink donors after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Following her arrest, Alba appeared before a court in Connecticut’s state capital Hartford and was released on a $50,000 bond, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office.
“It is unconscionable to think that the families of the victims in Newtown, and a sympathetic community looking to provide them some sort of financial support and comfort, have become the targets of criminals,” said FBI Special Agent Kimberly Mertz.
“Today’s arrest is a stern message that the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who perpetrate Internet fund raising scams, especially those scams that exploit the most vulnerable in their time of shared sorrow.”
Alba allegedly used her Facebook account, telephone calls and text messages to solicit money for what she said was a “funeral fund” for one of the Sandy Hook victims.
“We’ve set up a funeral fund for my brother and families,” read a message posted on December 15, the day after 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother in their Newtown home before embarking on a horrific shooting spree.
Lanza blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot dead 20 six- and seven-year old children and six adults with a military-style assault rifle before taking his own life with a handgun as police closed in.
During a telephone conversation with a donor, Alba claimed to have gone to the school to identify her dead nephew, the complaint says.
Asked in a text message exchange with this donor if she was watching President Barack Obama’s speech in Newtown, Alba allegedly replied: “No, I’m sitting in my car. Emotionally I can’t deal with it right now.”
She later texted: “I’m sure he’ll give a good speech. He met with us, hugged us, even cried with us. He’s really down to Earth.”
Asked how she was doing emotionally, she replied: “I’m a mess. Not looking forward to seeing that casket cause that is what will kill us all today. 11 gun shot in his little body … The guilt we have just keeps building up.”
The Facebook post asked donors to give money either via a PayPal account or by direct debit into her bank account.
Alba is accused of lying to an FBI agent by insisting that she did not post information related to Newtown on Facebook, solicit donations nor access her PayPal account.