Authorities say a New York woman has been arrested for allegedly claiming to be related to a shooting victim at Sandy Hook Elementary School and soliciting donations for the child’s funeral.
Nouel Alba, 37, was charged in federal court on Thursday with lying to FBI agents investigating fraudulent fundraising tied to the Newtown, Conn., massacre in which Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the school before shooting himself in the head.
Alba is accused of using Facebook, phone calls and text messages to solicit donations to her PayPal account for a “funeral fund,” authorities said.
“This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from this tragedy by contriving fraudulent schemes that exploit the many victims, their families and individuals who sincerely want to help,” U.S. Atty. David B. Fein said in a statement. “Investigators continue to monitor the Internet to uncover other fundraising scams arising from this tragedy, and the individuals operating them face federal or state prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
The issues of fraudlent charities emerged last week after an uncle of 6-year-old shooting victim Noah Pozner said he had to spend a day buying up domain names affiliated with his nephew.
Alexis Haller said he previously challenged someone’s purchase of noahpozner.com and was able to gain control for the family so it could legitimately solicit donations.
“Instead of doing things with our family, I am running around trying to protect the family,” Haller told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
If individuals wish to give to Newtown families, they are safer looking toward established charitable organizations, said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
People should also avoid groups that provide vague descriptions of how donations will be spent, he said. “It’s more than just checking out that the charity exists,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a little beyond that.”
Alba faces up to five years in prison if convicted. After her court appearance, she was released on a $50,000 bond.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut said he could not comment on how much money Alba allegedly received.
People throughout the country have been trying to find ways to bring comfort to Newtown, and their generosity has been overwhelming.
In fact, the town has received so many toys, school supplies, clothes and other items in the wake of the Dec. 14 tragedy that local officials this week asked people to at least temporarily stop sending gifts, the Newtown Bee reported.