By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The New York City woman who posed as the aunt of a child killed in the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school last December is seeking probation, arguing she’s already been punished by the media.
Nouel Alba, 37, of the Bronx pleaded guilty in June on federal charges of wire fraud and making false statements.
Starting on the day of the shootings, authorities said, Alba used Facebook, email, text messages and telephone calls to falsely claim to be the aunt of 6-year-old victim Noah Pozner. Authorities said she made up details about the aftermath of the shooting to solicit donations for a “funeral fund” on behalf of the child’s family and the families of other victims of the shooting, in which a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six educators.
In a pre-sentence memorandum filed Thursday, her lawyer says Alba deserves a sentence of five years of probation, in part because the media has treated her as “something of a stand-in for the actual perpetrator of the Sandy Hook massacre.”
She has been hounded by the press, lost her friends, has been unable to maintain a steady job, and is facing foreclosure on her home, according to the court document.
“In short, Ms. Alba has been leading a tormented life since last December,” Deirdre Murray, Alba’s federal defender, wrote.
Murray also argues that Alba showed no sophistication in her fraud, using an easily identifiable Facebook account as well as PayPal and bank accounts in her own name.
“These are not the actions of a deliberate, manipulative criminal; they are the actions of a person showing an utter lack of good judgment and common sense,” Murray wrote.
Federal prosecutors are asking that Alba serve at least a year in prison.
They argue that Alba lied to FBI agents about her activities. They also say that while she collected less than $5,000 which was eventually returned to donors, her intent was to raise much more.
They also argue the fraud caused additional pain to the Pozner family and others in the Newtown community affected by the shootings, and make legitimate fundraising for victims more difficult.
“Unless those in a position to commit this sort of fraud truly understand that there are serious and certain consequences for their actions, there will be a temptation to target charitable victims after the inevitable next disaster,” wrote Jonathan Francis, the assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case.
Alba is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15.
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