Woman pleads guilty in Newtown fundraising scheme
(CNN) — A New York woman accused of trying to cash in on the Newtown elementary school shootings pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud and to lying to FBI agents, federal prosecutors in Connecticut said.
Nouel Alba, 37, faces sentencing on August 29 in Hartford. She is eligible for fines totaling $500,000 and could receive a 25-year prison sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. She entered the plea in Bridgeport.
Alba, prosecutors said, set up false bank accounts and claimed she was collecting for a “funeral fund” set up on behalf of one of the 20 children killed in the December attacks, Noah Pozner. The woman allegedly claimed to be an aunt of the Sandy Hook Elementary School student.
Donations were solicited on a Facebook page. Donors sent $240 to a PayPal account between December 14 and 20, federal prosecutors in New York said earlier this year.
CNN was alerted to the story by a relative of the Pozner family.
A CNN producer and camera crew went to Alba’s home in the Bronx, New York. She said that the bank account referenced on her Facebook page did in fact belong to her.
Alba denied being involved in a scam during an appearance on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” in December.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said FBI agents contacted Alba after seeing the CNN report and that she told the agents the same thing she told CNN.
Alba falsely told agents that she did not post information related to Newtown on her Facebook account, have contact with anyone about such postings or access her PayPal account, prosecutors said in a statement.
“The thought that someone would scheme so quickly and deliberately to benefit from an unspeakable tragedy is beyond belief,” FBI special agent in charge Kimberly Mertz said in a statement. “While there wasn’t a substantial loss of money in this investigation, there were losses beyond any pecuniary measure.”
At Alba’s sentencing in late August, victims will be allowed to make impact statements that could affect sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The indictment against Alba in December cited CNN’s reporting.