HARTFORD — Bronx, N.Y., resident Nouel Alba, 37, was arrested on December 27, on a federal criminal complaint charging her with lying to FBI agents in connection with their investigation into a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy, according to a federal spokesman.
The criminal complaint alleges that Alba used her Facebook account, telephone calls, and text messages to falsely claim to be a relative of a shooting victim and solicited money from donor-victims who wanted to donate, claiming the money was for the child’s “funeral fund,” according to spokesman Thomas Carson.
At Alba’s instruction, donor-victims sent money to a PayPal account controlled and accessed by Alba, Mr Carson said in a statement.
When contacted by FBI special agents investigating fundraising and charity scams related to 12/14, Alba falsely stated that she did not post information related to Sandy Hook on her Facebook account, solicit donations, or recently access her PayPal account, according to Mr Carson. Alba also falsely claimed to have immediately refunded any donations that she received, he 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 US Attorney for Connecticut David Fein.
“Investigators continue to monitor the Internet to uncover other fundraising scams arising from this tragedy, and the individuals operating them face federal or state prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law,” he added.
“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-in-Charge Kimberly Mertz.
“Today’s arrest is a stern message that the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who perpetrate Internet fundraising scams, especially those scams that exploit the most vulnerable in their time of shared sorrow,” she said.
Following her arrest, Alba appeared before US Magistrate Thomas Smith in Hartford and was then released on $50,000 bail.
If convicted of making false statements to federal agents, Alba faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Mr Fein said that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Individuals with knowledge of Newtown-related fundraising schemes are encouraged to contact the FBI in Connecticut at 203-777-6311.
Mr Fein said that potential federal charges associated with fraudulent fundraising and charity schemes include wire fraud, which has a 20-year maximum prison term; access device fraud, which has a 10-year maximum prison term; and interstate transportation of stolen property, which has a 10-year maximum prison term.