THE BRONX — A Bronx woman was arrested Thursday after she falsely claimed she was the relative of a Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim and solicited money from would-be donors, federal officials said.
Nouel Alba, 37, allegedly made phone calls, sent text messages and used Facebook to solicit money from people who wanted to donate, claiming the money was for her relative's “funeral fund,” according to the United States Attorney in Connecticut.
“All this killing and shooting this entire week is just crazy,” she posted at 1:14 p.m. on Dec. 14, according to the federal complaint. “Praying for those families and all the kids who are effected [sic] by this today. My heart goes out to those little innocent kids.”
Fifteen minutes later, she wrote that she was the aunt of a Sandy Hook victim, and said she gave police photos to help identify him, the complaint said. The next day, she allegedly began asking for money.
“We’ve set up a funeral fund for my brother and families,” she allegedly posted on her profile. "We like to Thank everyone for your prayers. We ask that you continue to not just pray for us but for the families who have lost their kid."
Alba then allegedly texted and called one donor. In one text, she said of President Obama: "Im sure [he'll] give a good speech. He met us hugged us even cryed with us."
In a telephone call to the donor, Alba allegedly explained that she was asked to go to Sandy Hook Elementary to identify her nephew.
Family members and next of kin were not allowed at Sandy Hook after the shooting because it was an active crime scene, according to the complaint.
U.S. Attorney David B. Fein said investigators were continuing to monitor the Internet for other fake charity accounts.
“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,” Fein said in a statement.
Victims of the alleged scheme sent money to a PayPal account controlled by Alba, who was being monitored by the FBI, according to Fein's office. When FBI agents contacted Alba, she claimed she did not solicit the money, and that she refunded all of the donations.
She was later arrested for lying to FBI agents in connection with the investigation, Fein's office said.
FBI Special Agent Kimberly K. Mertz said the alleged scam exploited "the most vulnerable in their time of shared sorrow.”
“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 Mertz, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation.
Alba appeared before a federal judge in Hartford on Thursday and was released on $50,000 bond, Fein's office said. If convicted of making false statements to federal agents, Alba faces a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.