A Bronx woman pleaded guilty on Thursday to engaging in a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings.
Nouel Alba, 37, entered her guilty plea before a federal judge in Bridgeport, Conn., the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
According to court documents, Alba falsely claimed to be the aunt of 6-year-old victim Noah Pozner, one of 20 children killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Alba set up a "funeral fund" in the days after the tragedy, using Facebook, email, text messages and telephone calls to solicit donations. According to prosecutors, she even "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." Alba then directed unsuspecting donors to send money to her PayPal account.
“The thought that someone would scheme so quickly and deliberately to benefit from an unspeakable tragedy is beyond belief,” Kimberly K. Mertz, the FBI special agent in charge of the fraud investigation, said in a statement on Thursday. “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."
Alba, who was arrested on Dec. 27, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to investigators. The counts carry a combined maximum prison sentence of 25 years. She is scheduled to be sentenced in Hartford, Conn., on August 29.