PROVIDENCE — A former Rhode Island man who fled the country and faked his own death to avoid criminal charges in Utah is being held in custody in Scotland until he can be returned to the United States.
The 34-year-old man known as Nicholas Alahverdian in Rhode Island, Nicholas Rossi in Utah, Nicholas Brown in Ireland, and Arthur Knight in Scotland, and about a dozen other names was remanded in custody at a hearing at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court Friday.
A prosecutor told the sheriff that Alahverdian was a “significant flight risk.” Alahverdian is next due in court on Feb. 10 for a pre-extradition hearing, criminal office manager Michelle Baillie of the Edinburg Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Court told Globe Rhode Island in an email.
Alahverdian contacted local media in January 2020 to say that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma; a press release sent from an unknown source followed, announcing his death on Feb. 29, 2020. His purported widow, “Louise,” called and emailed the Boston Globe repeatedly, to demand an obituary and recognize his legacy seeking child welfare reform in Rhode Island.
But Alahverdian was not dead. He had fled the country and was found on a ventilator in a Scotland hospital last month after contracting COVID-19. He was wanted by authorities in Utah in connection with a sexual assault case from 2008.
An investigation into a backlog of rape kits in 2018 found a match of Alahverdian’s DNA to that case as well as another sexual assault case in Ohio; the Utah County Attorney’s Office said, agents “discovered that Nicholas Rossi was a suspect in a number of similar offenses in Utah and throughout the United States after the 2008 incident.”
He was also accused of fraud in Ohio, where he allegedly ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars under someone else’s name.
When he finally appeared in Edinburg Sheriff Court on Friday, Alahverdian was brought in by paramedics and was wearing an oxygen mask, in his pyjamas and wearing a towel over his head, according to a report from the Edinburg Courts Press Services. He had an oxygen tank with him and an oximeter attached to one finger.
Prosecutor Jennifer Johnston told Sheriff Noble that the Crown believed that his bail should be revoked. He had been granted bail at a virtual hearing while hospitalized in December because it was believed he would continue to remain in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for “several weeks”.
However, Johnston said, they found the man had called a private taxi company and offered £100 to take him from the hospital before the hearing, and then checked himself out of the hospital the next day.
When he didn’t show up at court on Thursday, officers found him in his bed with a duvet pulled up over his head and an oxygen mask on his face, although the oxygen tank wasn’t turned on, Johnston told the court.
The prosecutor said that Alahverdian, whom she called Rossi, used various identities to evade the police, but was traced in the hospital as Arthur Knight. A marriage certificate and an Irish driver’s license said he was Nicholas Brown.
Johnston said police and hospital staff identified the man as being Nicholas Rossi from tattoos on his body, and scars on one arm were believed to be caused by attempts to remove the tattoos.
Whenthe clerk of court asked the man with the oxygen mask, “Are you Nicholas Rossi?” the man started to cough and mumble, reported the Edinburg Courts Press Services.
Sheriff Noble asked his lawyer Fred MacKintosh: “Was that a yes?”
MacKintosh responded, “It’s a no my lord.”