‘FBI sex attack fugitive’ was found hiding in Scotland after years on the run thanks to tattoos
- Prosecutors said the man who appeared in court is US fugitive Nicholas Rossi
- He appeared at hearing in Edinburgh on Friday in a wheelchair and oxygen mask
- He is alleged to have fled the US in 2017 to evade a 2008 sex assault charge
- When asked if he could confirm that his name was Nicholas Rossi, he denied it
- But prosecutors said police officers matched body tattoos confirming his ID
A US man alleged to be a fugitive on the run from the FBI was found after years spent hiding in Scotland by police matching his tattoos, prosecutors have said.
The man, who goes by at least ten other aliases, including Nicholas Alahverdian and Arthur Knight, appeared at a hearing in Edinburgh on Friday in a wheelchair wearing an oxygen mask, pyjamas, a dressing gown and socks.
Prosecutors said the man who appeared in court is Nicholas Rossi – the Rhode Island man wanted after fleeing the US in 2017 to evade charges involving identity theft and fraud, and a 2008 sexual assault charge in Utah.
But when asked if he could confirm that his name was Nicholas Rossi, he denied it.
Rossi is accused of faking his own death before hiding in Scotland to escape sex charges, only to be arrested twice after almost dying of Covid and then missing his extradition hearing. He has now been remanded in custody.
At Friday’s hearing, prosecutor Fiscal Jennifer Johnston said police and hospital staff identified the man as being Mr Rossi from tattoos on his body.
A US man alleged to be a fugitive on the run from the FBI was found after years spent hiding in Scotland by police matching his tattoos, prosecutors have said. The man, who goes by at least ten other aliases, including Nicholas Alahverdian (pictured), appeared at a hearing in Edinburgh on Friday in a wheelchair wearing an oxygen mask, pyjamas and a dressing gown
Photographs obtained by officers showed that he had tattoos on his arms.
Ms Johnston said: ‘They have noted tattoos – and scarring on his other arm which is believed to have come from the attempted removal of tattoos.’
She added that fingerprints had yet to be taken from the man.
The 34-year-old was first arrested on an Interpol notice on December 13 after being admitted to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) with coronavirus under the name Arthur Knight.
He was then released on bail after appearing via video link at a court hearing on December 23 on the understanding that he required more treatment.
However prosecutors told a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that he discharged himself the next day and went home to his address in West End Park Street in Glasgow.
The court heard the alleged sexual offender was then arrested a second time, on January 20 at his house, for failing to attend an extradition hearing that day.
Speaking at the hearing on Friday, Ms Johnston said Rossi’s bail should be revoked as he posed ‘a significant flight risk’.
She said he made several attempts to leave QEUH with oxygen canisters in December, including hiring a private ambulance and offering to pay £100 to a taxi to take him home.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday where Nicholas Rossi, who is believed to have faked his own death to escape sex assault charges in Utah, America, attended a further hearing following his arrest after he missed an extradition hearing on Thursday at the same court
A police motorcyclist escorts an ambulance thought to be carrying Nicholas Rossi
File photo dated January, 2019 of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow where Nicholas Rossi, who is believed to have faked his own death to escape sex assault charges in Utah, America, was arrested by police last year while receiving treatment for coronavirus
Ms Johnston also told the court Rossi attempted to use multiple aliases, saying that a document provided by Rossi’s lawyers was in the name of Nicholas Brown Knight, but when he was arrested in QEUH he was said to be using the name Arthur Knight.
She added that when police spoke to Rossi’s wife, she said his name was Arthur Brown, but a marriage certificate exists which calls him Nicholas Brown.
Prosecutors also said in 2020, an anonymous email was sent to Rhode Island Media indicating that Nicholas Alahverdian, another alias of Rossi, had died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that he had been cremated and buried at sea.
The court heard that since the alleged sexual offender’s arrest received media attention, Police Scotland had received ‘a complaint of a domestic nature to police in Essex in 2017’ in relation to Rossi.
Ms Johnston told the court there is ‘concern’ over Rossi reoffending, ‘as well as risk of flight’, and that ‘he cannot be trusted for bail’.
Appearing for the man, Fred Mackintosh QC said his client’s health had deteriorated significantly since catching Covid, and he is at risk of death by no oxygen if he is sent to prison.
‘If he goes to prison he will run a serious risk of asphyxiation in his sleep,’ Mr Mackintosh said.
‘His conditions are also not limited to post-Covid. He suffers from epilepsy, anxiety, depression and lower back pain.’
Mr Mackintosh also argued that his client’s bail should not be revoked, adding he had previously been ‘granted bail on the standard conditions and these have been complied with.
‘There is no suggestion he breached them at all.’
This map shows the trail of havoc and alleged criminal behavior carried out by Nicholas Rossi across the US. The man who appeared in court in Edinburgh on Friday is allegedly Rossi, on the run from US officials for these crimes
Sheriff Alistair Noble said: ‘Obviously the Crown suggestion is that the person in front of me is Mr Rossi.’
He said bail had been initially granted on the understanding that he would need to remain in hospital for ‘at least a few weeks’ for treatment.
He added that after seeing a medical note from a doctor at QEUH, he understood the man could receive the medical assistance he requires in prison and remanded him in custody.
‘It appears to me appropriate to revoke the person’s bail,’ Mr Noble added, saying the man ‘cannot be trusted.’
Several media outlets reported in 2020 that Nicholas Alahverdian, said to be one of Mr Rossi’s many fake names, had died on February 29 2020 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
They cited the website EverLoved.com, which said his body was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.
An online obituary dedicated to Nicholas Alahverdian read: ‘Nicholas Alahverdian’s battle for life ended on February 29 2020.
‘The children and families in the care of the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) for whom he inspired and led through turbulent government transgressions have lost a warrior that fought on the front lines for two decades.’
It is understood the case will next call for a procedural hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on February 10 and a full hearing on whether the man should be extradited will be held at the court on February 17.
US prosecutors who are trying to extradite Rossi, who they believe was the man in court on Friday, welcomed Mr Noble’s decision.
David O Leavitt, Utah County Attorney, told BBC Reporting Scotland he was ‘grateful that he’s in custody not only for the opportunity to be able to know that we can demonstrate that he is who he is, but also because we believe that he is a danger to Scottish women given his history’.
Prosecutors today said the man who appeared in court is Nicholas Rossi – the Rhode Island man wanted after fleeing the US in 2017 to evade charges involving identity theft and fraud, and a 2008 sexual assault charge in Utah
Criminal past of Nicholas Alahverdian
Date unknown: Failure to register as a sex offender in Rhode Island. Accused of separate attack which allegedly saw him kidnap and sexually assault a woman
Date unknown: Accused of similar abduction and sexual assault attempt in Massachusetts
2008: Convicted of sexual assault in Ohio after an ‘encounter’ with a fellow student at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. In September 2008, he allegedly raped an ex-girlfriend in Orem, Utah – the allegation that led to his arrest in December 2021.
July 2010: Pressures date for sex and threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t comply
November 2010: Quarrels with partner over dinner guests’ crying baby and allegedly later assaults her
2017: Fraud in Ohio. Former foster mom in same state accused Alahverdian of $200,000 scam which saw him allegedly take out fake credit cards and loans in her husband’s name
February 2020: Fakes his own death of lymphoma, with unnamed ‘widow’ claiming Alahverdian had been buried at sea. In July, DNA links him to 2008 sex attack in Orem, Utah – the charge which ultimately led to his discovery in Scotland
December 2021: Arrested at hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, while intubated with COVID on suspicion of Utah sex attack
January 2022: Set to be extradited back to the US, where Alahverdian is almost certain to face further fraud charges for faking his own death in February 2020
Rossi – who claimed to have died of cancer in February 2020, aged 32, before being buried at sea – is being sought over a 2008 sexual assault charge in Utah.
He is accused of raping an ex-girlfriend in September 2008, with police investigating Rossi discovering he’d been reported to the police over similar alleged attacks in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Utah and Ohio.
Rossi was convicted of sexual assault following an ‘encounter’ with another student at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.
He is suspected of carrying out multiple other sex attacks, and was also accused of a $200,000 fraud after taking out credit cards and loans in his foster mother’s husband’s name in Ohio, it is alleged.
Rossi divorced his second wife in 2017 after less than two years of marriage, and is also said to owe her $52,000. Both of his former spouses took out restraining orders against him after their marriage ended.
More details of his bizarre behaviour was detailed by the Providence Journal, which obtained a series of Pawtucket police reports from more than a decade ago.
One accuser told police in July 2010 that Rossi lured her to his apartment under the guise that she’d be visiting his art studio. Instead, she told cops, he took away her phone and pressed her for sex.
When she refused his advances, he told her ‘if she left, he would kill himself by stabbing himself in the chest with a knife,’ the outlet reported.
Rossi was taken to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Police returned to his apartment that November on a tip, and said they encountered an ‘extremely upset’ woman with injuries to both eyes.
The woman told cops that Rossi snapped after their dinner guests’ baby began crying earlier that night, and claimed they later got into an argument which turned violent.
Rossi ‘grabbed her and knocked her to the ground and held her down’ and ‘slapped her on the facial area,’ the outlet reported.
He resisted arrest, prompting police to physically carry him out of the apartment and into the cruiser, where he repeatedly smashed his head against the metal bars while screaming ‘very loudly’.
He was pepper sprayed by the arresting officers in an effort to get him to stop self-harming.
The next month, an even stranger story crossed the desk of police in Pawtucket.
A woman told police she went on a dinner date with Rossi, who picked up the tab. When they returned to his apartment and she refused his advances, he became ‘enraged,’ took away her cell phone, and ordered her to repay him for the meal, according to the report.
He drove her to a nearby ATM, where she withdrew $200 because ‘She felt she had no choice but to give him the money, in fear of further violence.’
Before letting her go, he made her sign on camera an agreement that she ‘could not pursue legal action and that the money she gave him was for therapy for him due to her violent actions and her sexual addiction.’
Alahverdian, who also goes by Nicholas Rossi, is a registered sex offender. He was convicted of two sex-related crimes in 2008. His mugshot from the sex offenders’ registry is pictured
An arrest warrant was issued for Rossi in 2011 for for violating a restraining order obtained by his then-wife.
Years before the made-for-Hollywood story unfolded, Rossi was a Rhode Island political activist who claimed to be victimised by the foster system as child, and who called for changes to state law.
His tale of a man with a haunted past – who overcame adversity to become a Harvard-educated political scientist – amazed the circles he frequented, with multiple lawmakers taking pity on him.
He began working at Rhode Island’s state house as a teen, when he served as an errand boy, photocopying documents and delivering papers within the building.
The charming house page was so charismatic that he nearly convinced a state representative to adopt him.
Brian Coogan, 51, said he met Rossi in 2000 while representing Rhode Island’s 64th District.
Rossi has been described as both vindictive and charming, and can be seen posing in an undated photo with former Vice President Mike Pence.
Coogan told DailyMail.com that he was initially enamoured by the troubled teen – who claimed to be sexually and physically victimised in foster care – and moved to give him a permanent family after Rossi ‘begged me to adopt him’ shortly after meeting him in 2000.
On the day he was in court to begin adoption proceedings, Coogan said he overheard Rossi threatening a social worker, saying: ‘I’ll tell them you abused me, that you hit me.’
A judge later talked Coogan and his wife out of it, warning that he was ‘manipulative’ and prone to stealing peoples’ identities.
The charge Rossi is awaiting extradition for relates to the rape of a woman in Orem, Utah who he befriended on MySpace in 2008 and later attacked, Utah County District Attorney David Leavitt told DailyMail.com.
Utah County Sheriff’s Office in Provo began the hunt for Rossi in 2020 after testing old sexual assault kits.
Those had been uploaded to a national criminal database.
‘At the time of his passing, the room was filled with the sounds of the end credits for the 1997 film “Contact” by composer Alan Silvestri, a film and score which held special meaning for Mr. Alahverdian,’ the ‘obituary’ for Mr Rossi said
The samples which saw Rossi convicted of the Ohio sex attacks in 2008 flashed up as a match for a sexual assault said to have taken place the same year in Orem, Utah.
That case was originally closed by the lead detective without being referred to prosecutors.
They said DNA led to his capture in Scotland, although it is unclear how staff at the hospital grew suspicious of him.
‘That’s where we began this investigation,’ Leavitt said Thursday.
‘And what we found was a trail of victims from Utah to Ohio to Rhode Island, Massachusetts.
‘All have very similar patterns, very similar stories.’
The Utah DA said Rossi had also fled charges in Ohio, although further details of the allegations against Rossi – who claims to be a married dad of two children – have not been shared.
He also faced fraud and extortion complaints in Utah and Ohio, the Providence-Journal reported.
It is unclear if the Ohio fraud charge is linked to the fraudulently obtained loans and credit cards.
He was convicted in Dayton, Ohio in 2008 of public indecency and sexual imposition; Rossi claimed in a 2013 civil lawsuit that the charges stemmed from accusations he masturbated in a hallway of Sinclair Community College.
Rossi/Alahverdian was described as both charming and vindictive by a former acquaintance. He is pictured in this undated photo with former vice president Mike Pence
Rossi claimed to have died in Rhode Island, where his reported passing was mourned by state representatives, with his current medical issues meaning cops were finally able to track him down and arrest him.
The Providence Journal refused to publish an obituary for Rossi after a woman claiming to be his third wife failed to provide a death certificate, having claimed that her ‘spouse’ was buried at sea.
The con saw a gushing obituary to Rossi posted online, which his former foster mother suspected the alleged fraudster had written himself, after recognising his writing style.
There was also a supposedly posthumous YouTube plea, uploaded three weeks after Rossi’s death, asking supporters to help the former foster child push for reform of Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
Speaking in a croaky voice towards the end of a self-aggrandising video touting his achievements, Rossi/Alahverdian said: ‘I’m Nicholas Alahverdian and I kindly ask with you to join with me in my final fight to reform DCYF.’
A local radio station’s news report announcing Alahverdian’s death was also uploaded to the same YouTube channel, in an attempt to underline that Alahverdian really was dead.
An memorial tribute was posted in February 2020 which claimed ‘Alahverdian’ had died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that his last words were ‘fear not and run toward the bliss of the sun’
The many aliases of an American fugitive
Investigators say the suspected sex predator went by at least ten names, including:
- Nicholas Rossi
- Nicholas Alahverdian
- Nicholas Alahverdian Rossi
- Nicholas Edward Rossi
- Nicholas Alahverdian-Rossi
- Nick Alan
- Nicholas Brown
- Arthur Brown
- Arthur Knight
In March 2020, Rhode Island Representative Frank McCabe eulogized him as ‘an accomplished author and child welfare reform advocate’.
‘During his years in the custody of DCYF, he endured significant abuse, deprivation of education, neglect, and unhealthy living conditions,’ McCabe said in the House Chamber. ‘The challenges he faced throughout those years could have irrevocably changed his life.
‘Instead, those hardships gave him understanding, passion and drive. More than a survivor, Nicholas endured and ultimately overcame those years in the system,’
A ‘memorial’ Twitter accounted purported to be run by ‘Nick’s widow Louise Alahverdian’ appeared to exist to shut down any claims he was alive.
‘More fake news about Nick is released the more the Rhode Island gov & now the FBI prove they tried to silence him,’ said one tweet. ‘Too late. Difference now is he is deceased & I as his wife and 20+ staff can tell his story. He left 7 manuscripts to publish. RI politics will never be the same.’
There is no evidence online that Louise Alahverdian exists, though Rossi/Alahverdian has been married twice before.
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