A Rhode Island man faked his death to evade sexual assault charges before he was found alive — suffering from Covid-19 — and arrested in Scotland, authorities said Thursday.
The man, Nicholas Rossi, who also goes by the aliases Nicholas Alahverdian and Nicholas Alahverdian Rossi, is wanted in connection with allegations of a sex assault in Orem, Utah, in 2008 and an attack in Ohio in 2018, the Utah County Attorney's Office said in a statement.
He was arrested using another alias, Arthur Knight, at a hospital in Glasgow and is being watched by police, Utah officials said.
Utah County Attorney David O. Leavitt admitted that had Rossi not contracted Covid and needed medical care, he would still probably be living "off the grid" successfully.
"It's a lot more difficult than people imagine," Leavitt said Thursday.
"People may not know where you are, but with social media, the world is small enough that if anyone sees a picture of you ... if you're going to be off the grid, you better stay in your house and never leave, because someone is going to see you," he said.
Rossi "fled the country to avoid prosecution" and "attempted to lead investigators and state legislators in other states to believe that he was deceased," Utah prosecutors said in a statement.
Various news outlets in 2020 cited the memorial website EverLoved.com in reporting that Rossi had died Feb. 29 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
"Mr. Rossi was discovered to be living under an assumed name in Scotland," the Utah County Attorney’s Office said. "He has been taken into custody and the Utah County Attorney’s Office is working with federal and international agencies to extradite Mr. Rossi back to Utah."
Leavitt thanked Orem police, the Utah State Bureau of Investigation and his office's investigators, who he said used the latest DNA technology to follow up on the 2008 case.
“Our hats are off to the people who stuck with this and made it happen," Leavitt said. "There was lots of hard work behind the scenes."
Rossi has been charged with one count of alleged rape, in the attack on a 21-year-old woman on Sept. 13, 2008, according to prosecutor’s affidavit.
A Rhode Island lawyer who has previously represented Rossi said Thursday that when he was informed that Rossi was reported to have died in 2020, he didn't completely buy it.
"I'm not going to lie to you, a part of me found it a bit suspicious," said the lawyer, Jeffrey Pine, who was Rhode Island’s attorney general from 1993 to 1999.
Pine represented Rossi in 2018 and 2019 on a charge that he had failed to properly register as a sex offender because of a previous out-of-state sex crime conviction.
“I found the circumstances a little suspicious," Pine said of the reports of Rossi's death. "But on the other hand, I accepted what his wife told me. I mean, I don’t want to insult someone by saying they’re not dead. So I accepted it at face value.”
He added: "However, there was a part of me, in my years as a prosecutor have taught me, to be a little suspicious."
It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday whether Rossi had hired a new attorney to possibly fight extradition. Utah prosecutors claim that they have enough DNA and fingerprint evidence to extradite him.