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A Rhode Island man who is believed to have faked his death and fled the US to evade prosecution in Utah and other states has been apprehended in Scotland after being hospitalised with COVID-19, authorities said.
Nicholas Alahverdian was discovered after developing a serious case of the coronavirus and being placed on a ventilator at a hospital in Glasgow, Rhode Island State Police Major Robert Creamer told The Providence Journal on Wednesday.
Mr Alahverdian, 34, who had been a vocal critic of Rhode Island’s child welfare system in recent years, now faces extradition to the US to face a charge of first-degree rape in Utah.
Court documents unsealed on Thursday show Mr Alahverdian met a 21-year-old woman on MySpace in 2008, when he was living in Orem, Utah, and going by the name Nicholas Rossi, WPRI-TV reported.
The woman said that she ended the relationship, but that Mr Alahverdian owed her money, promised to pay her back and instead sexually assaulted her in his apartment.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt’s office said on Wednesday that DNA evidence collected at the time wasn’t tested until 2017 as part of a state effort to test backlogged rape kits. The Utah evidence ultimately came back as a match to a sexual assault case in Ohio.
“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,” Mr Leavitt’s office said in a statement.
“Mr. Rossi was discovered to be living under an assumed name in Scotland.”
Rhode Island State Police have also said he is wanted in that state for failing to register as a sex offender, while the FBI have said he is also wanted in his home state of Ohio on charges he took out credit cards in his foster father’s name and amassed more than $277,000 in debts.
It’s not clear whether Mr Alahverdian has a lawyer; an email seeking comment was sent to the “Alahverdian Family Office,” which had sent a notice in 2020 about his funeral and memorial service at a church in Providence, Rhode Island.
Mr Alahverdian had for years been an outspoken critic of Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, testifying before state lawmakers about being sexually abused and tortured while in foster care.
In 2020, he told local media outlets he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live, The Journal reported.
An obituary published online claimed he died February 29, 2020, but by last year, Rhode Island state police, Mr Alahverdian’s former lawyer and former foster family were publicly questioning whether he actually died.