American Fugitive Who Faked His Own Death Caught in Scotland After Contracting COVID-19
Nicholas Alahverdian, an American fugitive who used multiple aliases and faked his own death to avoid fraud and sexual assault charges in Utah and Ohio, has been found alive in Scotland, police told The Providence Journal on Wednesday.
"He was located in Scotland about a month ago, where he was on a ventilator," Rhode Island State Police Maj. Robert A. Creamer told the publication, which also reports Alahverdian was in the hospital with COVID-19.
The 34-year-old was operating under the name Arthur Knight while overseas, according to The New York Times.
"Officers arrested a 34-year-old man in Glasgow on Monday, December 13, in connection with an international arrest warrant," a Police Scotland spokeswoman said, per local Scottish newspaper The National.
Alahverdian was identified through photo evidence, according to the Utah County Attorney's office, and as part of the extradition process, DNA and fingerprints were provided to Interpol for supporting evidence.
The Utah County Attorney's office said that DNA evidence recorded from a previous arrest linked Alahverdian to a sexual assault case in which the suspect was Nicholas Rossi — one of the aliases Alahverdian used.
The Utah Department of Public Safety — State Bureau of Investigation's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative enlisted a "multi-disciplinary team to review old sexual assault cases where the original sexual assault kits had not been tested."
"One of the cases involved a 2008 sexual assault where the suspect was Nicholas Rossi," wrote Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in a news release on Wednesday.
"In 2017, as part of the Sex Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) the original sexual assault kit was submitted for testing, and in 2018 the DNA profile from the Utah sexual assault came back as a match to a sexual assault case in Ohio. The suspect, in that case, was Nicholas Rossi," Leavitt wrote.
The news release from the Utah County Attorney also stated that Alahverdian had faked his own death and fled the country to avoid persecution in Ohio, and it was discovered that he was a "suspect in a number of similar offenses in Utah and throughout the United States after the 2008 incident."
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"It was a cold case because the suspect did a really great job of hiding himself and creating new identities," Leavitt told local news outlet WJAR.
"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," Leavitt said in a statement sent to PEOPLE.
The Providence Journal also reports that Alahverdian faced fraud and extortion complaints after allegedly obtaining 22 credit cards and loans in the name of his former foster mother's husband, accumulating $200,000 worth of debt. He also reportedly owes his ex-wife, Kathryn Heckendorn, over $60,000.
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In an obituary written about the Rhode Island native, it was believed that he had died at age 32 after "going public with his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma." The write-up also stated that his wife and two children, along with extended family, were at his bedside when he passed.
"Mr. Alahverdian was a devout Roman Catholic," read his fake obituary. "In keeping with Mr. Alahverdian's wishes, his earthly remains were cremated with his ashes scattered at sea."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.