BRONX CRIMINAL COURT — A Bronx woman was arrested and charged Tuesday for allegedly posing online as the aunt of a boy murdered in the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting in a scam to steal donations, the Bronx District Attorney said.
Nouel Alba, a 37-year-old single mother who lives in Clason Point, falsely claimed on Facebook and in text messages to be the aunt of six-year-old Noah Pozner, one of 20 children massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, according to Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
Just one day after the shooting, Alba allegedly asked well wishers to send money to her PayPal account, falsely explaining that it would be used for Noah’s funeral, according to a criminal complaint.
“When somebody attempts to profit on this kind of horror, this kind of tragedy, this kind of misery, it really shows depravity and self-interest of the worst sort,” Johnson said Tuesday.
Alba’s alleged scam is “one of the lowest things that can be done in civilization,” he added.
A Bronx grand jury indicted Alba on felony scheme to defraud and identity theft charges. She faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
Federal prosecutors in Connecticut have also brought charges against Alba; in that case, for allegedly lying to a FBI agent about the suspected fundraising scheme. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted of that charge.
Alba’s attorney, Justine Olderman, said the Bronx charges were excessive.
“We are shocked that the Bronx D.A.'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 a statement.
On December 14, the day Adam Lanza allegedly gunned down the school children and six adults, Alba posted photos of Noah on Facebook, falsely claiming that she was his aunt and had helped the authorities identify his body, according to the federal complaint.
"My heart is entirely destroyed knowing my little man is gone,” the complaint says she wrote.
The next day, in a post seeking donations for Noah’s funeral, Alba added, “I don't think I could ever fully recover from what I saw and his lifeless body just laying there,” the complaint says.
Alba also spoke on the phone and texted with a donor, even telling the person that she attended a prayer service at Newtown High School where President Barack Obama spoke, according to the complaint.
“He met with us hugged us even cryd [sic] with us,” the complaint says Alba texted. “Hes. Really down to earth.”
Four people eventually donated $240 to Alba’s PayPal account, according to the Bronx DA’s office, which said it became aware of the alleged scam through cable news reports in December.
Investigators from the DA’s office and the US Secret Service then launched a five-month probe, during which they seized Alba’s computer, the DA’s office said.
She was arrested at her home Tuesday morning and arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court. A judge set her bail at $10,000 bond or $1,000 cash.