Fugitive Who Faked His Death and Fled U.S. Is Caught in Scotland, Officials Say
Nicholas Alahverdian, a suspect in a 2008 rape in Utah, was traced to a hospital in Glasgow, where he had been placed on a ventilator with Covid-19, the authorities said.,
Nicholas Alahverdian, a suspect in a 2008 rape in Utah, was traced to a hospital in Glasgow, where he had been placed on a ventilator with Covid-19, the authorities said.
The remembrances poured in for Nicholas Alahverdian,saying that he had succumbed at 32 to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2020. “His last words were ‘fear not and run toward the bliss of the sun,’ ” an online tribute to Mr. Alahverdian read.
There was an in memoriam citation with the signature of a congressman on official letterhead, even a death notice purportedly quoting the mayor of Providence, R.I.
But his demise was greatly exaggerated, the authorities in two states said this week. Mr. Alahverdian, a convicted sex offender wanted on a rape charge in Utah, was alive and not so well, prosecutors in Utah and the Rhode Island State Police said.
He was recently arrested in Scotland, according to the authorities in the United States, who said that Mr. Alahverdian, 34, had been hospitalized with Covid-19 in Glasgow and had at one point been placed on a ventilator.
He had been using the name Arthur Knight while living in that country and eluding investigators, who said on Thursday that they were now seeking to extradite him to the United States on a rape charge that has been pending since September 2020. The Providence Journal earlier reported Mr. Alahverdian’s arrest.
The case, which prosectors said involved a sexual assault on a woman — whom Mr. Alahverdian had reportedly met on Myspace — in 2008 in Orem, Utah, had been sealed until recently. The charge was filed seven months after he faked his death, said David O. Leavitt, the chief prosecutor in Utah County, which includes Provo.
“We don’t make a practice of charging dead people,” Mr. Leavitt said on Thursday, adding that Mr. Alahverdian could very well have known that “we were onto him.”
Mr. Leavitt said that DNA from Mr. Alahverdian matched genetic evidence that had been taken from the victim. But that rape kit, like a multitude of others sitting on shelves in the county, had long gone unanalyzed, he said.
After being elected as county attorney in 2018, Mr. Leavitt said, he ordered that DNA evidence from scores of languishing rape kits be entered into a national database of registered sex offenders.
“We got a hit,” he said. “Suddenly, we had a suspect.”
Investigators said that the suspect, Mr. Alahverdian, had used a slew of aliases, including Nicholas Rossi. He was convicted in 2008 of sexual imposition and public indecency under that name.
Those charges stemmed from an encounter between Mr. Alahverdian and another Sinclair Community College student in Dayton, Ohio, who told a campus police officer that Mr. Alahverdian had groped her and masturbated in front of her in a stairwell.
The conviction, which Mr. Alahverdian unsuccessfully appealed, required him to register as a sex offender. That victim had also met him on Myspace, which Mr. Leavitt said had been a pattern.
“What we found was a trail of victims,” Mr. Leavitt said. “We knew that if we charged him and if that were public, that we’d never find him.”
In Glasgow, hospital employees were able to identify Mr. Alahverdian from photographs, according to investigators, who said that his fingerprints and DNA had been provided to Interpol.
Laura Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Crown Office, which prosecutes criminal cases in Scotland, said “Arthur Knight” had appeared in a virtual court hearing from Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Dec. 23 in connection with the extradition proceedings. Ms. Hamilton said the Crown Office had not scheduled future court dates.
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said the force had arrested a 34-year-old man on Dec. 13 in Glasgow “in connection with an international arrest warrant.”
The Rhode Island State Police and the F.B.I. referred questions on Mr. Alahverdian’s current status to Mr. Leavitt’s office, which said that it was not immediately clear whether Mr. Alahverdian was still hospitalized.
The online tribute to Mr. Alahverdian, which gave Feb. 29, 2020, as the date of his death and clocked in at nearly 1,000 words, said that his “earthly remains were cremated with his ashes scattered at sea.”
“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 tribute read. The movie, adapted from a novel by Carl Sagan, involves a possible message coming from a distant star system.
The tribute said that Mr. Alahverdian had earned acclaim as a child welfare reform advocate, drawing from his own experience of being raped and assaulted in Rhode Island’s child welfare system.
It quoted Jorge O. Elorza, the mayor of Providence, remembering Mr. Alahverdian as a “a beloved community leader whose selflessness and lifelong contributions to the residents of the State of Rhode Island have earned him the unwavering admiration and respect of many.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Elorza did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
On a Facebook tribute page for Mr. Alahverdian, an in memoriam citation signed by Representative Jim Langevin, Democrat of Rhode Island, is still prominently displayed.
According to Mr. Langevin’s office, the citation, which includes the House seal, was requested by someone claiming to be a member of Mr. Alahverdian’s family. An aide to Mr. Langevin described it as a common courtesy for the office to accommodate such requests, though he said that had it known about Mr. Alahverdian’s background, it would not have granted it.
The person requesting the tribute asked for Mr. Langevin to read the citation on the floor of the House, a request that the office said had been denied.
“Every year, my office issues many condolence cards to Rhode Islanders during their times of mourning,” Mr. Langevin said in a statement on Thursday. “If police reports are accurate, it is disturbing that this one was abused to further this apparent deceptive plot to escape justice. I hope he is brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Mr. Leavitt said that Mr. Alahverdian’s victims ranged far and wide because of his deception and weren’t limited to those in the sexual assault cases. The exhaustive search for him, he said, sent a powerful message, to people including the woman Mr. Alahverdian is accused of raping in Utah.
“She certainly hasn’t rested from her suffering,” he said, “and from our perspective, we shouldn’t be resting, either.”