COURTS & LEGAL

Fugitive who faked his death can be extradited to Utah to face a rape charge, UK judge says

Aug 2, 2023, 1:16 PM | Updated: 2:57 pm

Nicholas Rossi in a wheelchair...

Nicholas Rossi, an American fugitive accused of faking his own death to avoid a rape charge in Utah has been ordered by a judge in Scotland to be returned to the U.S. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

(Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — An American fugitive accused of faking his own death to avoid a rape charge in Utah can be extradited to the U.S., a judge in Scotland ruled Wednesday, calling the man “as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative.”

The wanted man known in Scotland as Nicholas Rossi fought his return since being arrested in December 2021 at a Glasgow hospital, where he was being treated for COVID-19. He repeatedly appeared in court — and in several television interviews — in a wheelchair using an oxygen mask and speaking in a British accent insisted he was an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight who had never set foot on American soil.

But Judge Norman McFadyen of Edinburgh Sheriff Court had previously dismissed the fugitive’s claims of mistaken identity as “implausible” and “fanciful” after the man said he had been framed by authorities who tattooed him and surreptitiously took his fingerprints while he was in a coma so they could connect him to Rossi.

“I conclude that he is as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative,” McFadyen said. “These unfortunate facets of his character have undoubtedly complicated and extended what is ultimately a straightforward case.”

McFadyen said Rossi had presented unreliable evidence and he was not “prepared to accept any statement of fact made by him unless it was independently supported.”

Scottish government ministers will review McFadyen’s ruling to determine whether to issue an extradition order.

U.S. authorities said Rossi is one of several aliases the 35-year-old has used and that his legal name is Nicholas Alahverdian, who faces a 2008 rape charge in Utah.

According to court documents, Rossi was wanted for criminal cases of sexual assault, harassment, and possible kidnapping from 2007-2019. Police reports involving Rossi were obtained from Rhode Island, Ohio, Utah and Massachusetts.

The documents allege that Rossi raped a former girlfriend he had met on myspace.com and briefly dated in Orem, Utah. The woman reported the sexual assault to a local hospital and her rape kit was tested as part of the “sexual assault kit initiative” in 2017. The DNA found connected investigators to Rossi.

Authorities in Rhode Island have said Alahverdian is wanted there 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.

Alahverdian, who grew up in Rhode Island, was an outspoken critic of the state’s Department of Children, Youth and Families. He testified before state lawmakers that he was sexually abused and tortured in foster care.

Three years ago, he told media in Rhode Island he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live. An obituary published online claimed he died Feb. 29, 2020.

About a year later, Rhode Island state police, along with Alahverdian’s former lawyer and his former foster family, cast doubt on whether he had died.

Rossi fired six lawyers and had tried unsuccessfully to dismiss his latest attorney, Mungo Bovey, who sought to delay proceedings Wednesday.

Bovey argued that extraditing Rossi would be a “flagrant breach” of his human rights.

In a video link from jail, the man known in the U.K. courts as Rossi was doubled over and claimed to be sick. He did not answer when asked if he was Rossi.

The judge said he had appeared voluntarily, but in an outburst, the man, said guards used physical force to put him before the camera and he called the judge “a disgrace to justice.”

The prosecutor has said the inmate did not suffer from any condition that would prevent his extradition.

During a hearing in June, the jailed man said the muscles in his legs had atrophied so much that he needed a wheelchair and couldn’t lift his arms over his head.

Psychiatrists who examined him found no signs of acute mental illness and a doctor questioned his need for a wheelchair, saying his legs were strong and athletic. Dr. Barbara Mundweil said she had seen video of him kicking a prison officer in the face.

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Fugitive who faked his death can be extradited to Utah to face a rape charge, UK judge says