New York City prosecutors say a woman has been charged with fraud for posing as the aunt of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim and soliciting donations.
The Associated Press reported that Nouel Alba was indicted May 14 on identity theft and fraud charges in the Bronx. Prosecutors say she pretended to be the aunt of 6-year-old victim Noah Ponzer.
She was accused of using her Facebook account, telephone calls and text messages to seek donations for what she called a “funeral fund.” Alba was first arrested in December on separate federal charges she lied to federal officials about the case.
According to Reuters, Justine Olderman, a public defender representing Alba, said her client was innocent and criticized the prosecution as overzealous considering Alba was already facing charges on a related matter in federal court.
“We are shocked that the Bronx DA’s Office would use its limited resources to prosecute a case that has already been brought against Ms Alba in federal court where she has already denied these charges and is fighting to prove her innocence,” Olderman said in an email to the news agency.
Alba was arrested at her home in the Bronx and later indicted by a grand jury at the county’s State Supreme Court, where she pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.
Olderman told Reuters that Alba is a single mother raising two children and previously had no criminal record She was released on bail and is due back in State Supreme Court on August 8.
The Newtown Bee previously reported that Alba, 37, was first arrested on December 27, on a federal criminal complaint charging her with lying to FBI agents in connection with their investigation into the fraudulent fundraising scheme, according to federal 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.
On January 15, a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport returned an indictment against Alba, charging her with making the false statements, according to David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Two days later, she pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in US District Court.
This report has been updated with additional information about Alba's plea.