Setting up a Pay Pal account for donations and using her Facebook page to publicize her idea a Bronx, New York woman allegedly set a fraudulent scam into motion claiming to be the aunt of one of the children slain in the Newtown, Connecticut. School massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On Thursday the FBI arrested Nouel Alba, 37, for allegedly amassing fraudulent “funeral fund” donations for one of the children killed in the Newtown school bloodbath; fictitiously claiming that she was the child’s aunt.
She was charged with making false statements to federal agents. She then faced a U.S. magistrate in Hartford, Connecticut, who released her on a $50,000 bond. The penalty of such a conviction could have her face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the FBI, Alba used her Facebook page, as well as telephone and text messages to ask for donations for the purported “funeral fund” of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, who was the first child to be buried of the twenty children and six adults massacred on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.
The complaint against her charges that she instructed potential targets to donate money to a PayPal account which was controlled and accessed by her. When she was contacted by FBI Special Agents who were in charge of scrutinizing fundraising scams associated with the Newtown tragedy, Alba untruthfully specified that she did not post any material related to the Newtown events on her Facebook account or solicit any donations. She also stated to them that she did not access her PayPal account at all recently. In spite of the preceding statement, Alba went on to tell agents that she immediately refunded any donations that she did receive.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Kimberly Mertz was quoted as saying “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.” She went on to comment “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.”
Apparently, Alba is not a novice to these types of scams. According to The New York Post Alba also posted messages on the Web claiming she had founded numerous charities to help storm victims in the days after Hurricane Sandy hit.
But it turned out that the postings were packed with deceitful claims, as well as an invalid tax-ID number for one of the so called charitable organizations.
Later in the week during an interview with CNN before her arrest, Alba denied being involved in any scams whatsoever.
Alba’s latest alleged swindle was uncovered when NBC News reported last week that the ploy initiated within an hour from the time that the shootings took place. They said that a woman wrote on her Facebook page, “All we know is 18 kids have been killed … still no word on my nephew.”
NBC traced the Facebook account to Alba, and then went to her home and recorded an audio interview with her in which she denied writing the post as well as any requests for charitable contributions on her Facebook page.
“I’m disgusted by it,” the slain boy’s uncle, Alexis Haller, expressed to NBC News. “I think it’s disgusting behavior.”
Federal and state authorities “are actively monitoring the Internet and investigating multiple fundraising scams” stemming from the killings according to U.S. Attorney David Fein.
Alba’s broadly disseminated photograph was posted on the Scrapbook Stamp Society website on Friday but according to Sherri Baldy, owner and CEO, she is not associated with the organization as anything more than what she labeled a “crafter”. Alba joined the organization about a year ago but has not been active for most of the time, Baldy said.
The crime of fraud can be prosecuted at a State or Federal level. Fraud can become a Federal crime by making false statements, lying to or concealing (information) from a federal official by oral affirmation, written statement or mere denial. The federal crime is explained in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code
The consequences of a conviction for a fraud-related crime(s) may be extremely harsh and often include incarceration and restitution, among others. It is crucial that if one is charged with a fraud-related crime, to immediately contact an experienced fraud attorney, with experience in the field of fraud defense to properly handle the case.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer.
He is rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. His law firm is located in Fort Lauderdale, and he practices there, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other Florida counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.