A man accused of faking his own death before hiding in Scotland to escape sex charges, only to be arrested twice after almost dying of Covid and then missing his extradition hearing, has been remanded in custody.
The man, who goes by at least ten other aliases, including Nicholas Alahverdian and Arthur Knight, appeared at a hearing in Edinburgh on Friday in a wheelchair wearing an oxygen mask, pyjamas, a dressing gown and socks.
Prosecutors said the man who appeared in court is Nicholas Rossi – the Rhode Island man wanted after fleeing the US in 2017 to evade charges involving identity theft and fraud, and a 2008 sexual assault charge in Utah.
But when asked if he could confirm that his name was Nicholas Rossi, he denied it.
The 34-year-old was first arrested on December 13th after being admitted to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) with coronavirus under the name Arthur Knight.
He was then released on bail after appearing via video link at a court hearing on December 23rd on the understanding that he required more treatment.
However, prosecutors told a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that he discharged himself the next day and went home to his address in West End Park Street in Glasgow.
The court heard the alleged sexual offender was then arrested a second time, on January 20th at his house, for failing to attend an extradition hearing that day.
Speaking at the hearing on Friday, Procurator Fiscal Jennifer Johnston said Rossi’s bail should be revoked as he posed “a significant flight risk”.
She said he made several attempts to leave QEUH with oxygen canisters in December, including hiring a private ambulance and offering to pay £100 (€199) to a taxi to take him home.
Ms Johnston also told the court Rossi attempted to use multiple aliases, saying that a document provided by Rossi’s lawyers was in the name of Nicholas Brown Knight, but when he was arrested in QEUH he was said to be using the name Arthur Knight.
She added that when police spoke to Rossi’s wife, she said his name was Arthur Brown, but a marriage certificate exists which calls him Nicholas Brown.
Prosecutors also said in 2020, an anonymous email was sent to Rhode Island Media indicating that Nicholas Alahverdian, another alias of Rossi, had died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that he had been cremated and buried at sea.
The court heard that since the alleged sexual offender’s arrest received media attention, Police Scotland had received “a complaint of a domestic nature to police in Essex in 2017” in relation to Rossi.
Ms Johnston told the court there is “concern” over Rossi reoffending, “as well as risk of flight”, and that “he cannot be trusted for bail”.
Appearing for the man, Fred Mackintosh QC said his client’s health had deteriorated significantly since catching Covid, and he is at risk of death by no oxygen if he is sent to prison.
“If he goes to prison he will run a serious risk of asphyxiation in his sleep,” Mr Mackintosh said.
“His conditions are also not limited to post-Covid. He suffers from epilepsy, anxiety, depression and lower back pain.”
Mr Mackintosh also argued that his client’s bail should not be revoked, adding he had previously been “granted bail on the standard conditions and these have been complied with.
“There is no suggestion he breached them at all.”
Sheriff Alistair Noble said: “Obviously the Crown suggestion is that the person in front of me is Mr Rossi.”
He said bail had been initially granted on the understanding that he would need to remain in hospital for “at least a few weeks” for treatment.
He added that after seeing a medical note from a doctor at QEUH, he understood the man could receive the medical assistance he requires in prison and remanded him in custody.
“It appears to me appropriate to revoke the person’s bail,” Mr Noble added, saying the man “cannot be trusted.”
Several media outlets reported in 2020 that Nicholas Alahverdian, said to be one of Mr Rossi’s many fake names, had died on February 29th 2020 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
They cited the website EverLoved.com, which said his body was cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea.
An online obituary dedicated to Nicholas Alahverdian read: “Nicholas Alahverdian’s battle for life ended on February 29th 2020.
“The children and families in the care of the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) for whom he inspired and led through turbulent government transgressions have lost a warrior that fought on the front lines for two decades.”
It is understood the case will next call for a procedural hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on February 10th and a full hearing on whether the man should be extradited will be held at the court on February 17th.
US prosecutors who are trying to extradite Rossi, who they believe was the man in court on Friday, welcomed Mr Noble’s decision.
David O Leavitt, Utah County Attorney, told BBC Reporting Scotland he was “grateful that he’s in custody not only for the opportunity to be able to know that we can demonstrate that he is who he is, but also because we believe that he is a danger to Scottish women given his history”.