Last Friday, NBC's Jeff Rossen aired a profile of one of the many scammers that have popped up since the Sandy Hook shooting. Literally within an hour after news of the butchery in Newtown hit the wires, Nouel Alba, a woman in the Bronx, took to Facebook posing as the aunt of six-year-old Noah Pozner, who was ultimately confirmed as one of the victims. Days later, she set up a PayPal account and started asking for donations. Watch the piece here:
That story piqued the interest of federal agents investigating the numerous scammers that have cropped up since the shooting. Now Alba is up on federal charges of lying to them.
(Alba) alleged that someone else posted the fraudulent message using her account, and told Rossen that she refunded donation money that had been sent to her account.Alba was taken to Hartford earlier this afternoon, where she was released on $50,000 bond. Her Facebook account appears to have been deleted.
But the criminal complaint filed against Alba on Thursday alleges that Alba not only used her Facebook account, but telephone calls and text messages to falsely claim to be a relative of a shooting victim and solicit money she claimed was for the child’s “funeral fund.” It also alleged that Alba falsely claimed to have immediately refunded any donations that she received.
According to the New York Times, Alba was also profiled on CNN two days before Rossen's report ran on the Today show.
Alba is in a world of trouble. According to the press release from the Connecticut U. S. Attorney's office, she could potentially face charges that could send her to prison for the rest of her life. She could potentially face charges of wire fraud, access device fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. I ran this through an online federal sentencing guidelines calculator, and without knowing how much money she bilked she could be looking at anywhere from 2.5 years to three years and one month in prison under sentencing guidelines. But in a case like this, upward departure definitely wouldn't be out of line.
For those who want to donate to the victims, the best way is a fund set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut. Click here to donate.