Thursday, December 27, 2012

Woman arrested after scamming donations for Sandy Hook victim on Facebook

Who could imagine a Facebook scam involving the Newtown, Conn. massacre? Well, considering there was already a recent one involving a faux Ryan Lanza, it's not hard to imagine it. And here it is.

Nouel Alba, 37, of the Bronx, N.Y., was arrested on Thursday. She is accused of bilking unsuspecting Facebook users out of donations by pretending to be the aunt of Noah Pozner, a six-year-old who was killed on Dec. 14, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The criminal complaint alleges that Alba not only used her Facebook account, but text messages and phone calls to pose as Pozner's aunt, soliciting money she claimed was for his “funeral fund.”

The complaint also alleges that Alba lied to FBI agents investigating the scheme, including claiming to have immediately refunded any donations that she received. The complaint says that the money was not returned for several days.

The complaint also detailed some of the text messages she used to solicit money. In one exchange with a donor, Alba allegedly said she hugged President Barack Obama during his visit to Newtown, adding she was afraid to see her nephew in a casket: "11 gun shot in his little body," she wrote, said the filing.

Ironically, Alba's arrest came less than a week after she was the subject of an NBC TV report. On Dec. 21, "Today" aired a "Rossen Reports" segment that included an interview with Alba conducted through the front door of her home (although Alba refused to appear on camera, she agreed to an audio interview with NBC's Jeff Rossen).

That segment is embedded.

During the interview, Rossen asked her about the Facebook post, in which she claimed to be Pozner's aunt. She denied sending it.

Rossen asked, "Then why is your account number on it, your bank routing number, your email, and your PayPal information?"

"Because I sell things online," Alba said.

Rossen replied, "Because you sell things online? But then why were you posing to be a member of the Pozner family? They say they've never met you before."

"I never did that," Alba answered.

Alba claimed someone else used her Facebook account to create the posts, which didn't explain how her account information was provided. She also told Rossen that she refunded donation money that had been sent to her account.

After her arrest, Alba appeared before United States Magistrate Thomas P. Smith in Hartford, Conn., and was released on bail of $50,000. If convicted of making false statements to federal agents, she faces a maximum prison term of five years along with a fine of up to $250,000.

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