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New York woman charged with Newtown fundraising scam

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bronx grand jury indicted a New York woman on Tuesday on suspicion of posing as the aunt of one of the 20 children killed in last year's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in order to fraudulently solicit donations.

Nouel Alba, 37, is accused of setting up a Facebook page shortly after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in which she falsely claimed to be an aunt of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, according to the Bronx district attorney.

Alba has already been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges she lied to federal agents investigating fraudulent fundraising schemes tied to the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Prosecutors said she posted pictures of the deceased child and sought donations, purportedly for his funeral, through an online account. Four people donated a total of $240 to the fund.

Justine Olderman, a public defender representing Alba, said her client was innocent and criticized the prosecution as overzealous considering Alba was already facing charges on a related matter in federal court.

Alba was arrested at her home in the Bronx on Tuesday morning and later indicted by a grand jury at the county's State Supreme Court, where she pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.

She is charged with one count of scheming to defraud and one count of identity theft. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Alba faces a federal trial, due to begin in July, on the charge she lied to federal agents in Connecticut who were investigating fraudulent fundraising schemes connected to the Newtown massacre. She has pleaded not guilty.

If convicted in that case, she would face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

"We are shocked that the Bronx D.A.'s Office would use its limited resources to prosecute a case that has already been brought against Ms. Alba in federal court where she has already denied these charges and is fighting to prove her innocence," Olderman said in an email.

Alba is a single mother raising two children and previously had no criminal record, Olderman said. Alba has been released on bail and due back in State Supreme Court on August 8.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay)

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