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 after calling the man’s claims of mistaken identity “implausible” and “fanciful.”
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 insisted he was an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight who had never set foot on American soil.
But judge Norman McFadyen in Edinburgh Sheriff Court had previously said fingerprint and tattoo evidence showed the man was Rossi.
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 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 Utah County Attorney David Leavitt. His office said it found complaints alleging Alahverdian abused and threatened women in other states.
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 sheriff “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.
Brian Melley, The Associated Press