BRIDGEPORT – A New York City woman on Thursday, June 6, pleaded guilty in US District Court to federal charges against her stemming from her engaging in a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy, and then lying to FBI agents investigating her conduct.
Nouel Alba, 37, of The Bronx, pleaded guilty before US Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel, according to a June 6 joint statement from Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI.
Alba pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, and also to one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum prison term of five years.
Alba is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford on August 29. Alba has been free on $50,000 bail since her arrest last December 27.
Alba had used the Internet to falsely portray herself as the aunt of Noah Pozner, 6, who was one of the 20 first-graders who was killed in the December 14 shooting incident at the school.
In January, a federal grand jury in Bridgeport returned an indictment against Alba. The indictment states that Alba used her Facebook account, telephone calls, and text messages to falsely claim to be an aunt of the shooting victim and to supply fictitious details about the aftermath of the tragedy in order to solicit donations on the pretext that she was collecting on behalf of the family for the child’s “funeral fund.”
At Alba’s instruction, the donor-victims sent money to a PayPal account controlled and accessed by Alba.
The indictment states that, 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 Newtown on her Facebook account, have contact with anyone about such postings, or recently access her PayPal account.
As part of the scheme, Alba also had e-mailed Sandy Hook Elementary School PTA officers and then touted her fictional personal relationship with the PTA to support her false claim and induce donors to send her money.
In the June 6 statement, Ms Daly said, “This defendant’s criminal conduct exploited the victims of this tragedy, their grieving families and caring individuals who sought to help in any way they could.”
“As charity and fundraising scams prey upon vulnerable people and have a corrosive effect on the trust and generosity of all citizens, investigators will continue to monitor the Internet to uncover similar schemes. While we believe that this case has had a deterrent effect on other potential bad actors, individuals who ignore this warning and operate these schemes face federal or state prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law,” Ms Daly said.
“The thought that someone would scheme so quickly and deliberately to benefit from an unspeakable tragedy is beyond belief,” said Ms Mertz.
“While there wasn’t a substantial loss of money in this investigation, there were losses beyond any pecuniary measure. Ms. Alba’s actions caused undue sadness and harm to those already suffering and to those involved with running legitimate and caring charities. While her guilty plea is just, our thoughts today are with the victims of the Newtown tragedy and their families and friends,” Ms Mertz said.
People with knowledge of fraudulent fundraising and charity schemes are encouraged to contact the FBI in Connecticut at 203-777-6311, according to the statement.