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 has 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. He 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.
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.
U.S. authorities said Rossi is one of several aliases the 36-year-old has used and that his legal name is Nicholas Alahverdian, who faces a 2008 rape charge in Utah.
Alahverdian is charged with sexually assaulting a former girlfriend in Orem, Utah, according to the Utah County prosecutor’s office. Rossi also faces a similar sexual assault charge in Salt Lake County. The office said it found complaints alleging Alahverdian abused and threatened women in other states.
Utah investigators said in each of those cases there were similar complaints against Rossi, saying he would meet women online before meeting in a public place. The two would allegedly go somewhere alone and Rossi would “initiate some inappropriate contact.”
“This is part of an ongoing process,” said Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill. “The extradition makes Nicholas Rossi available to be held accountable for his alleged crimes in the state of Utah. There is a presumption of innocence for Mr. Rossi until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.