UK court: Arrested man is US fugitive wanted on rape claim

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The defendant authorities believe to be Nicholas Rossi arrives at Edinburgh Sheriff And Justice Of The Peace Court for a hearing on his extradition to the US, where he is wanted after allegedly fleeing the country in 2017 to evade charges involving identity theft and fraud, and a 2008 sexual assault charge in Utah. The man, who goes by at least ten other aliases, including Nicholas Alahverdian and Arthur Knight, denies he is Rossi, in Edinburgh, Wednesday Nov. 9, 2022. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

LONDON – A judge in Scotland ruled Friday that a man who has spent almost a year fighting extradition to the United States is Nicholas Rossi, a fugitive alleged to have faked his own death to escape rape allegations.

The suspect was arrested in December 2021 at a Glasgow hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19. He denies being Rossi and says he is an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight who has never been to the U.S.

After seeing evidence including fingerprints and tattoos, judge Norman McFadyen told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that “I am ultimately satisfied on the balance of probabilities … that Mr. Knight is indeed Nicholas Rossi, the person sought for extradition by the United States.”

The suspect has accused authorities of having him tattooed while he was in a coma to resemble the wanted man and of surreptitiously taking his fingerprints to frame him.

McFadyen said those claims of mistaken identity were “implausible” and “fanciful.”

U.S. authorities say Rossi is an alias used by Nicholas Alahverdian, 35, who has been charged in connection with a 2008 rape in Utah.

Authorities in Rhode Island have said Alahverdian is also wanted in their state for failing to register as a sex offender. The FBI has said he also faces fraud charges in Ohio, where he was convicted of sex-related charges in 2008.

In recent years, Alahverdian had been an outspoken critic of Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, testifying before state lawmakers about being sexually abused and tortured while in foster care.

Then in 2020, he told local media he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live.

An obituary published online claimed he died on Feb. 29, 2020. But by last year, Rhode Island state police, Alahverdian’s former lawyer and former foster family were publicly doubting whether he actually died.

Since his arrest in Scotland, the suspect has made several court appearances and fired at least six lawyers — all while insisting he isn't Nicholas Rossi.

Now that is identity has been established a full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in March. The judge refused a request for bail, saying Rossi was a flight risk.