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Test of old Utah rape kit leads to man's arrest in Scotland

Police in Scotland secure an area during a protest in 2020.
Police secure an area during a No Evictions Glasgow protest against the living conditions of refugees in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday June 17, 2020.
Andrew Milligan, Associated Press

A man wanted in several states, including Utah, who prosecutors say moved away from the United States to avoid prosecution and even faked his own death at one point, has been arrested in Scotland in connection with a 2008 rape in Utah County.

Court documents charging Nicholas Rossi, 34, with rape, a first-degree felony, were unsealed this week by a 4th District judge. The case was originally filed in September 2020, according to court records, but the information was sealed. Then on Sept. 15, 2020, an arrest warrant was issued for Rossi.

Rossi is accused of raping a 21-year-old woman in Orem in 2008, according to charging documents. At the time, however, the woman may have only known Rossi by an alias. According to the Utah County Attorney's Office, Rossi has used at least eight different aliases over the years.

A rape kit was submitted in 2017 to the Utah State Crime Lab for testing as part of the Utah Sex Assault Kit Initiative, an effort by the state to test hundreds of backlogged rape kits that had been submitted by police departments but sat in storage for years.

In 2018, the test results came back and matched with the DNA profile of Rossi, who was investigated in a sexual assault case in Ohio, according to the attorney's office.

"In researching Nicholas Rossi, (the investigator) located police reports involving criminal cases of sex assault, harassment, and possible kidnapping from 2007 through 2019. The police reports were obtained from Rhode Island, Ohio, Utah and Massachusetts," charging documents state.

In each case, investigators found "a consistent pattern of behavior" similar to the Orem case. Rossi would meet women online, eventually make inappropriate contact with the victim, threaten to harm himself, and then tell police that the woman was the aggressor, the charges state. Rossi has also been married, and protective orders were filed against him by each wife, according to the charges.

"Investigators also learned that Nicholas Rossi had fled the country to avoid prosecution in Ohio and attempted to lead investigators and state legislators in other states to believe that he was deceased. Through the diligent efforts of State Bureau of Investigation agents and various investigators in other states and agencies; and, in cooperation with the Utah County Attorney's Office, Rossi was discovered to be living under an assumed name in Scotland," according to the statement.

A story posted Monday by the Scottish Sun states a man named Arthur Knight was arrested at a Glasgow hospital after being in the intensive care unit for a month while he was treated for COVID-19. The paper said that Knight was a "fugitive wanted by Interpol in America" and was arrested by Scottish police "on behalf of colleagues in Utah."

The Utah County Attorney's Office noted Wednesday that Arthur Knight is one of Rossi's aliases, and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt posted a link to the Sun's article, hinting that it is the same man who is charged in Utah.

An agent investigating the case in Utah learned that the FBI in Ohio has a warrant out for Rossi's arrest stemming from a 2017 investigation. The agent also learned that the FBI had made contact with Rossi by phone and email as recently as December 2019. At that time, Rossi claimed "he was living in Ireland because there is a non-extradition treaty with the United States," the charges state.

"Our office is grateful for the significant interagency collaboration of law enforcement to bring this suspect to justice. We credit Utah's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant funded through the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance as playing a significant role in testing backlogged kits and ultimately identifying the suspect," a prepared statement from Leavitt said.

Utah County is now working to have Rossi extradited to the United States and Utah.

Prosecutors say there is also evidence to suggest Rossi may be connected to similar offenses in Utah and throughout the United States after 2008. Anyone who may have been a victim of Rossi is encouraged to contact the Utah County Attorney's Office or the Utah State Bureau of Investigation.

WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, reported that Nicholas Alahverdian — one of Rossi's aliases, according to court documents — was apparently on the run since 2020 when his wife claimed he had died overseas of cancer. Alahverdian had apparently moved out of the country with his wife and two children in 2016.

The TV station's website says Alahverdian was a critic of Rhode Island's child welfare system and alleged that he was "tortured and raped" in group homes affiliated with the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families. He filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 alleging he was sexually assaulted by group home residents and employees as he said the system "shuffled" him through several facilities. WPRI reported that the lawsuit was settled in 2013, but the details were not disclosed.