(NewsNation) — Investigators in Utah have tracked down a man accused of faking his own death to avoid a rape charge. The man in question, who was reportedly found in Scotland, is maintaining his innocence and insists police have the wrong guy.
The man identified by authorities as Nicholas Alahverdian, who claims he is a different man, was arrested in December for a 2008 sexual assault allegation in Orem, Utah. According to prosecutors, he invited a woman to whom he owed money to his home, saying he would pay her back but instead brutally raped her.
The registered sex offender is under investigation in four states for sexual assault and kidnapping. He also faces charges for fraudulently obtaining credit cards in his foster father’s name, amassing $200,000 in debt.
Many people in Rhode Island, including reporters, local politicians and members of his own family, believed Alahverdian died in February 2020 from cancer. Someone claiming to be his wife confirmed the reported death and had an obituary published for him. His life was even eulogized at the Rhode Island State House, where he was praised for his work on behalf of children. But it turns out, authorities say, he was alive.
“I’m shocked. Honestly, I feel like that I was used a little bit. I went along with it, you know, meaning I was unaware that this was a setup,” uncle Michael Alahverdian said.
Law enforcement officers say they tracked Nicholas Alahverdian down in December. They say he was in a Scottish hospital on a ventilator being treated for COVID-19. Scottish investigators and staff at the Glasgow hospital reportedly worked with the Utah County Attorney’s Office to identify Alahverdian based on tattoos and DNA evidence.
While it may seem like the case was nearly closed, they soon learned it was just the beginning.
The man identified as Alahverdian claims his name is actually Arthur Knight and that the entire ordeal is a big misunderstanding. The man saying he is Knight insists he has never even been to the United States and a woman claiming to be his wife backs up his story.
Still, the man claiming to be Knight has not been able to produce a birth certificate to authorities. He also refused to roll up his sleeves when a BBC reporter asked to check his arm for tattoos.
Knight appeared Monday on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live” via Zoom, but his breathing device made him hard to understand. He did show parts of his arms during the interview. And as for DNA evidence, his attorney Craig Johnson says prosecutors don’t have it.
“There is no DNA. That’s inaccurate. (The prosecutor) is inaccurate and we’re looking forward to proving that beyond a reasonable doubt,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he just returned from spending time with Knight. According to Nexstar’s WPRI, Johnson is not representing Knight in the U.K. proceedings.
“I just got back from spending four days in Scotland with him and his wife. I was able to see his arms as proof that he does not have the tattoos supposedly, that Mr. Alahverdian had,” Johnson said. “In addition, during those entire time with him, some 12- to 16-hour days, I never saw him off of his oxygen mask, it all seemed genuine to me. There were times that I had to help him out of his wheelchair into a sitting chair for dinner and things like that into his car. And so from my perspective, he is not Mr. Alahverdian. He’s never been to the United States and they have the wrong man.”
Johnson previously worked for the Utah County Attorney, and a Salt Lake Tribune article from March 2020 reveals that he and two other prosecutors resigned amid an investigation into whether they received inappropriate gifts from a defense attorney.
Even with Johnson’s arguments, prosecutors are not backing down. They say in the past, Alahverdian was able to avoid law enforcement by giving multiple aliases. Officials believe there may be more victims of Alahverdian in multiple states.