A suspected fugitive accused of faking his own death while on the run from the FBI has appeared on American television insisting detectives are hunting the wrong man.
The man authorities say is Nicholas Rossi was seen sobbing in an interview on an NBC television programme in answer to a question about what he would say to those who believed him to be Rossi, also known as Nicholas Alahverdian. The surreal appearance followed his failure to appear at an extradition hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after an alleged “altercation” in his prison cell in Scotland.
The 35-year-old suspect, who has been seen in recent months wearing an oxygen mask, claims to be Arthur Knight, an Irish orphan and a victim of mistaken identity who has never been to America.
He has been resisting efforts to return him to the US, where authorities in Utah want him him for an alleged sex offence they say was committed in 2008. Prosecuting lawyers claim he is from Rhode Island, New England, and is the man who fled the country in 2017.
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Following many court court hearings, Sheriff Norman McFadyen ruled that Rossi was indeed the man US authorities were seeking in connection with rape and sexual assault charges. In presenting him on TV, NBC called his story “stranger than fiction”. The Independent reported on Friday that it was alleged that Rossi faked his own death in 2020 and fled to Britain to evade prosecution.
He was arrested in 2021 after receiving treatment for Covid at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. He was found to be under the name Knight in hospital and said he was an academic tutor. He was re-arrested in January 2022.
Police and hospital staff initially identified him as Rossi after studying tattoos on his body. Interpol had earlier issued a request for arrest with pictures of the wanted man — including images of his tattoos and fingerprints.
During the NBC interview, the Independent reported that the man, in an angry state, claimed to be Arthur Knight. He appeared on the programme with his wife, Miranda Knight. At one point he demonstrated his attempts at standing up, to prove he was unable to walk.
“I am not Nicholas Alahverdian,” he said behind his oxygen mask. “I do not know how to make this clearer. We were once a normal family, but thanks to the media our lives have been interrupted.
“And we’d like privacy and I would like to go back to being a normal husband, but I can’t because I can’t breathe, I can’t walk.” He said he had worn his oxygen mask ever since nearly dying of Covid last year.
When it was put to him that this was all an act, he complained: “That is a low blow, that is a right low blow.”
According to the American authorities, Rossi is an alias used by Alahverdian, who has been charged in connection with rape in Utah. Authorities in Rhode Island say Alahverdian is also wanted in their state for failing to register as a sex offender.
The FBI says he also faces fraud charges in Ohio, where he was convicted of sex-related offences in 2008. In 2020, he claimed he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live.
In the Edinburgh court on Thursday, Sheriff McFadyen said he would consent to two more weeks for expert reports to be drafted before making a ruling. Rossi was remanded in custody until 22 May.