New York Woman Pleads Guilty to Newtown Fundraising Fraud and Lying to Federal Agents
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 06, 2013|
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 Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that Nouel Alba, 37, of Bronx, New York, pleaded guilty today before United States Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport to engaging in a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy and lying to FBI agents investigating her conduct.
“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,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daly. “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.”
“The thought that someone would scheme so quickly and deliberately to benefit from an unspeakable tragedy is beyond belief,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge 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.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, shortly after the shooting that claimed 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012, Alba used Facebook, e-mail, text messages, and telephone calls to falsely claim to be the aunt of a child killed in the shooting and to supply fictitious details about the aftermath of the shooting in order to solicit donations on the pretext that she was collecting for a “funeral fund” on behalf of the child’s family and the families of other shooting victims. As part of the scheme, Alba also 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. At Alba’s instruction, donor-victims sent money to her PayPal account.
When contacted by FBI special agents investigating fundraising and charity scams related to the shooting, Alba attempted to hide her criminal conduct by falsely stating 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.
Alba pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. She is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford on August 29, 2013.
Alba has been released on a $50,000 bond since her arrest on December 27, 2012.
Individuals with knowledge of fraudulent fundraising and charity schemes are encouraged to contact the FBI in Connecticut at 203-777-6311.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Francis.