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Woman charged in Newtown fraud reportedly sought Sandy cash

December 29, 2012 8:56:04 AM PST
A woman charged with trying to swindle donors by posing as a relative of a child killed in the Connecticut school massacre had also been soliciting money for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Nouel Alba was arrested Thursday and accused of concocting bogus tales about having to identify her nephew's body in order to raise money for a "funeral fund" for the victims.

The New York Post reports (http://bit.ly/UyyRTk ) that in the days after Sandy struck, Alba had also been posting Web messages claiming she had founded several charities to assist storm victims.

But the postings were filled with false claims, as well as an invalid tax-ID number for one organization.

In an interview with CNN before her arrest, Alba denied being involved in any scam.

Alba, 37, was arrested Thursday and accused of using her Facebook account, telephone calls and text messages to seek donations for what she called a "funeral fund." She told one donor that she had to enter the scene of the mass shooting in Newtown to identify her nephew, according to the criminal complaint.

The parents of one of the victims, 6-year-old Noah Pozner, reportedly discovered Alba's scam in the days following his death.

Alba is suspected of posing as Noah's aunt and requesting donations to her personal Paypal account.

"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," U.S. Attorney David Fein said. "Investigators continue to monitor the Internet to uncover other fundraising scams arising from this tragedy, and the individuals operating them face federal or state prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law."

Alba is charged with lying to FBI agents who were investigating charity scams related to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14.

Alba appeared Thursday in federal court in Hartford and was released on $50,000 bond.

In text messages with a donor, Alba allegedly said she hugged President Barack Obama during his visit to Newtown and said she was afraid to see her nephew in a casket: "11 gun shot in his little body," she wrote, according to the complaint.

Investigators say Alba told them she did not know her PayPal account was being used to solicit money and refunded donations right after receiving them. According to the complaint, however, she did not return the donations until several days later.

If convicted, she faces a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

The FBI is asking anybody with knowledge of scams related to the Newtown shootings to contact it. The state is also checking the identities of people soliciting money in the name of the Newtown victims, according to William Rubenstein, state commissioner of consumer protection.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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