US & Canada

NY woman in Newtown 'charity scam'

A US flag hangs over stockings left as a memorial for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, 27 December 2012
Image caption Memorials to those who died in the Newtown school shooting remain after Christmas and a snowstorm

A New York woman allegedly cheated donors who gave money after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, by posing as the aunt of a child who died.

Nouel Alba, 37, was arrested after FBI accused her of using Facebook, phone calls and text messages to solicit donations to a "funeral fund".

Gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at the school, as well as his mother and himself.

Ms Alba says she did not know her accounts were being used for donations.

She is charged with lying to FBI agents investigating charity scams after the agency interviewed her about suspected wire fraud.

The 37-year-old appeared on Thursday in federal court in Hartford, Connecticut and was released on $50,000 (£31,000) bail.

According to the FBI complaint, Ms Alba posted on Facebook that "we've set up a funeral fund for my brother and families - anyone willing to make a donation can make one", before giving instructions on how to donate to a Paypal account or by direct deposit.

She allegedly claimed to have visited Sandy Hook Elementary School to identify her nephew during a conversation to a donor over the phone.

Ms Alba also allegedly sent text messages to a donor in support of the idea that she was part of a grieving family.

"Not looking forward to see that casket cause that is what will kill us all today. 11 gun shot in his little body," one text read, according to the complaint.

It is unclear how many people donated to the fund, but all the donations have been refunded, although later than Ms Alba claimed to have done.

"It is unconscionable to think that the families of the victims in Newtown, and a sympathetic community looking to provide them some sort of financial support and comfort, have become the targets of criminals," FBI Special Agent in Charge Kimberly Mertz said in a statement.

If convicted, Ms Alba faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.