Sandy Hook victims have been prey to countless hoaxes since the horrific Newtown shooting by Adam Lanza on Dec. 14. But police are finally starting to get to the bottom of some of the scams that have added more pain to the loss of 20 children and six adults at the Connecticut elementary school.
One woman has been arrested for posing as the aunt of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim in the Sandy Hook massacre. Police say Nouel Alba of the Bronx used Facebook to claim that she was raising money for Noah's funeral. Alba, who is not related to Pozner, collected money and kept it for herself. Despite the fact that the FBI was able to return money to people who donated, Alba could still face five years in prison.
Convicted felon Jonathan Lee Riches was also arrested for posing as Adam Lanza's uncle. On Dec. 16, Riches went to Newtown and tried to visit Adam Lanza's home, saying he was his uncle. Riches, who filmed the trip and uploaded footage to YouTube, was not allowed into the crime scene, but he did manage to find his way to a makeshift memorial in Newtown, where he told reporters he was Jonathan Lanza, the uncle of the gunman.
Riches then told the press that his supposed nephew was taking Fanapt, a drug prescribed for schizophrenia. Riches, 35, has been living in West Chester, Pennsylvania since he was released from prison, where he was doing time for conspiracy and wire fraud.
Yet another hoax surfaced last weekend, when the New York Post reported that Ryan Lanza, the 24-year-old brother of the shooter, had taken to Facebook to defend his brother. Hours later the Lanza family responded to the Post's article saying that the posts were not from Ryan.
The New York Post article had reported that Ryan Lanza posted a poignant message with Adam's photo, saying:
Adam Peter Lanza
April 22, 1992- Dec. 14, 2012(20 years old)
"I will miss you bro. I will always love you as long as I live"
The article added that another Facebook member was disgusted, responding: "rot in hell." Ryan then allegedly defended Adam. "You have no right to call my brother names when he isn't here no more. Just let my brother rest in peace. Please. Respect that."
The question is: How do we all keep getting duped? After terrifying incidents like the Sandy Hook massacre, we want answers. Especially when it comes to motive. Because if we know a motive we can address the problem. Was it mental illness? O.K. We'll create better social-service programs. Did he hate the school? Was it his parents' divorce? Why hadn't he spoken to his brother, Ryan, for so long?
Feeling powerless, good people want to help. We're all trying to figure out what we can do or say. So we fall prey to scams, again and again and again.