In his splintering, cracking facade of deceit, it was not close to being Nicholas Rossi’s most sinister, or most plausible, lie.
His bar-room boasts of a degree from Harvard were simply straws in the gale of dishonesty that would blow the serial sex attacker across the Atlantic to Scotland.
Stephen O’Shea, an author who met Rossi in the Wickenden Pub in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2017, remembered: “To convince us, he was given to wearing all sorts of Harvard-branded ties and scarves but that only convinced us he was lying because that is precisely not what Harvard grads do.”
The twisting, darkening saga of Rossi, who is in prison in Edinburgh, will continue with more hearings this month as he fights extradition to America.
There, he was accused of sexual violence against a series of women before faking his own death and travelling to Bristol, where he styled himself as Arthur Knight, an Irish tutor, then Glasgow.
Like his lies, the trail of women allegedly assaulted spans the Atlantic. One, Anna, which is not her real name, describes how anonline community has allowed some of his victims to come together in unity and mutual support as legal proceedings stutter forward.
“We may be thousands of miles apart but it’s a way for us to come together,” she said.
Spanning three countries, the women – who claim they have been raped, sexually assaulted or conned by Rossi, who was born Nicholas Alahverdian – have shared their experiences and latest twists in the extradition case as American police and the FBI seek his return to the US where, they claim, he raped two women in Utah and sexually assaulted another.
He generated headlines around the globe when he was arrested in a Glasgow hospital in December 2021 when, as Arthur Knight, he claimed to have no knowledge of Rossi or Alahverdian. In November last year, a sheriff formally identified him as Rossi, 35, from Rhode Island. A man placed on the US sex offenders register after assaulting an 18-year-old woman in 2008.
His lies are as legion as they are shameless. In one police interview, he falsely claimed he had cancer as a baby and surgery meant he was physically unable to carry out the sex attacks. The Sunday Post spoke to victims, former friends and associates in Britain and the US and none of them has a scintilla of doubt that Knight, Rossi, and Alahverdian, are one and the same man.
Over more than a decade, Rossi systematically targeted women, often on the rebound from break-ups, sexually assaulting them before blaming them for his actions and threatening to end his own life if they revealed his crimes, according to prosecutors.
Anna, who says she was raped by Rossi in England six years ago, formed a social media group for victims. She said: “When I spoke out about him, previous victims made contact with me. We started a Facebook group. It is for everyone to keep up to date with the latest news about him.
“I didn’t expect it to attract so many people. More victims have come forward, joining the group once it was up and running. There are six of us so far.
“There is one rape that goes back to 2006. He has been doing this stretching back a long time. We share all the articles about him. We may be thousands of miles apart but it’s a way for us to come together. It is a triggering experience. We all want an ending to this to get some sort of closure and we wanted to make it easier for people to come together.”
Nafsika Antypas, a vegan lifestyle writer and TV host, is another victim, persuaded by Rossi to let him help promote her international food business when she wanted to expand to the UK.
Antypas, 44, who runs the Nafsika’s Garden brand, knew him as Nicholas Knight-Brown and had no idea he was a sex offender and fraudster wanted by the FBI. He conned her out of $40,000 and lied about being a professor at Glasgow University.
She also hailed the power of unity among his victims: “It’s a nice little support group. We like to say that there’s power in numbers. We want to get as many people as we can to strengthen our case so when he does get extradited there’s a stronger case against him. I wasn’t affected by him physically or emotionally too much but it’s good to have that and know we can talk to someone who understands.
“It’s still very raw for some people and they are extremely fragile, others are more ready to fight back.”
Anna alleged that Rossi attacked her during a brief relationship in 2017. She made a report to Essex Police last year after recognising Rossi in media coverage. She said: “It happened within five days of him being there. When I try to get rid of him, it was a pity party.
“He was crying, turning the tables on me saying I was the culprit and he’s the victim which is weird if you’ve never been in a situation before like that. It’s weird and you don’t know how to deal with it because he’s not a reasonable person.
“He came on the Sunday or the Monday and on the Friday, I thought this is not working because he basically took my money and then took me to London splurging all my money away.
“Then on the Saturday I tried to break up with him and it failed. I felt defeated and disappointed and trapped as well. Then on the Sunday, that was the rape. He was trying to pretend that everything’s fine and it wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do because he wouldn’t let me out of the bedroom.”
Police reports in the US revealed how he told authorities investigating the rapes in Utah – which triggered his pending extradition – that a surgical operation meant he could not be a rapist as he struggled to perform sexually.
During interviews with US police, he said: “I’m scared of sex, OK? I’m not the type of person to violently violate somebody else’s personal space, OK?
“I’m really, kind of sensitive about my body because, you know, when I was a baby I had testicular cancer and had to remove one of my testicles so, you know, I’m not exactly trying to have sex with as many people as I can.”
Citing supposed health problems to evade justice has been a seam running through his life of deceit and violence.
Arriving at extradition hearings last year, Rossi portrayed a pathetic figure sitting in a motorised wheelchair while wearing slippers and with an oxygen mask clutched to his face.
A hospital doctor and nurse working at the Glasgow hospital where the supposedly immobile patient – recovering from an allegedly potentially fatal battle with Covid – was being treated, recounted in court how he jumped out of bed and ran at them, furious that he might be discharged.
He had arrived in the UK after allegedly faking his own death in February 2020. An obituary on Alahverdian’s website, presumably written by himself, recalled his inspirational last words: “Fear not and run towards the bliss of the sun.”
He had, it was claimed, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on February 29, 2020 before his ashes were scattered at sea.
He has used at least 16 aliases, including Nicholas Brown, Arthur Knight-Brown and Arthur Brown but is identified through his distinctive tattoos, fingerprints and DNA. All evidence of his real identity – the prints, DNA, ink – had been faked, he claimed, in a series of bizarre court appearances in Edinburgh where he appeared in an electric wheelchair, and wearing a maroon dressing gown. His supposed Irish accent, like the account of his life, was all over the place.
Meanwhile, his first known victim – known only as Samantha – told a US news outlet she was raped by him in 2006, just before her 19th birthday.
She said: “It’s not just the fact this happened but it bleeds into everything else. How do I have a relationship with another human?”
Rossi, born on July 11, 1987, had a troubled childhood in Rhode Island on the east coast of the USA. His father, who had convictions for domestic assault and selling cocaine, left the family three years later, according to news reports.
In 1994, his mother Diana married David Rossi, an Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator, and they both took his last name.
Eventually young Rossi was too aggressive and disruptive for his parents and he was put in the custody of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. By the time he was 12, he was living in a boys’ home in Rhode Island.
However, a plausible manner and superficial charm allowed him to take his first steps into politics and by the time he was 14 he would run small errands for politicians and attend state Senate sessions.
By 2009, he had reinvented himself as an advocate for children in the foster care system claiming he had been abused while in care. One politician, who had befriended him and even considered fostering him, remembered being told by a judge that he had been suckered. Rossi was not an abused victim in care homes but the abuser.
While posing as a passionate defender of young people in care, he had, in fact, the year before, already committed the crime that would ultimately lead to a Scottish prison cell. Mary Grebinski, aged 18 at the time, was approached by Rossi on Myspace in January 2008. They were both studying at the same college in Ohio.
After asking to walk her to a class, he sexually assaulted her in a stairwell. He was found guilty of public indecency and sexual imposition in March 2008.
He was registered as a sex offender, his DNA and fingerprints taken and stored on a national database. This evidence would link him to a subsequent rape and lead to calls for his extradition to face justice in Utah. Pawtucket Police in Rhode Island have a 21-page dossier on Rossi dating back to 2006, detailing how four other women were abused in less than a year. According to the documents, in 2010 he met a woman on a dating site before demanding sex repeatedly at his house while she refused.
Later, according to the file, he forced her to go to an ATM and withdraw $400 before making her sign a document saying she would not take legal action.
He videoed her while signing the document, which stated the money was for therapy for him due to her violent actions and sex addiction.
In another incident in 2010, he was alleged to have kidnapped a woman he met through the Craigslist website. He pestered her for sex telling her to “come sit on my lap”, “just kiss me”, “touch your ear to my ear”.
He then threatened to end his life by stabbing himself in the chest if she told anyone. Officers were so concerned about his extreme behaviour that they took him for a psychiatric evaluation.
Bartender Corey Lamoureux, another former pal of Rossi’s in Rhode Island, said: “He tried to be this larger-than-life personality but that didn’t fool any of us.
“He was mildly annoying and never seemed to have money, always looking for his next con or get-rich-quick scheme. He took a few of my friends for a few thousand dollars but when he came to me I always said I don’t lend money.
“When I got the call that he was dead I didn’t believe it for one second and neither did my co-workers. We had only recently learned of his conviction for being a sex offender and then he took off to the UK, we were told.
“He always dated the same kind of woman – women who have been recently dumped or gotten out of bad relationships. He tried to take advantage of them. The relationships never did last as they usually caught on to him pretty quick.”
Police in Essex confirmed they wanted to question Rossi over claims he raped a woman weeks after arriving in Britain.
Anna said she was desperate for him to be extradited to the US, where she hopes the prison regime will be far harsher than in the UK. She said: “I was told before Christmas that he will still get transferred to an English prison so that he could be interviewed on English soil.
“Then the police said it will be first thing in the new year. We’re in February now and yet there is still nothing.
“Why do I have to go through this again? I don’t want to answer more questions from police. I don’t want to justify myself. The police are dragging their feet.
“It would be good to see him in a US jail because I think that would be tougher for him. Everyone is so tired of this and living with what he has done. As long as he is in prison and suffering, I am happy. I just want to get on with my life.”
Essex Police said: “We are continuing to liaise with Scottish authorities in order to facilitate an interview with the man regarding a non-recent allegation of rape in Chelmsford which was made to us in April 2022.”
Rossi is due to appear in court again later this month over the extradition to the United States.
Sandi Johnson, the Utah County prosecutor who is overseeing the case, said: “If and when he is ever extradited we will move the case forward. It’s in the hands of the Department of Justice now as they are handling the extradition. Until then things are on hold.”
The US Justice department, FBI and Crown Office declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Daniel Bates in New York.
Psychologist: There are Many reasons for such elaborate lies
Nicholas Rossi may have a rare psychiatric syndrome called pseudologia fantastica, according to an eminent psychologist, writes Stephen Stewart.
Dr Ahona Guha, a clinical and forensic psychologist who specialises in research into trauma, deceit and violence, said the Walter Mitty life of Rossi was “a very fascinating case”.
In pseudologia fantastica, a pathological form of lying, the patient lies not to avoid painful consequences but to achieve internal reward or gratification.
First described by German psychiatrist Anton Delbrük in 1891, the condition has been classified both as a distinct psychiatric disorder and as a symptom of personality disorder.
The lies told can often be fantastical or even impossible. She said: “There can be a range of reasons for people to concoct elaborate lies. Sometimes it could be purely for primary gain such as scamming people for money.
“It could be for secondary gains – ‘If I posture as someone with an illness, people will give me care and sympathy’ – or to avoid penalties and punishment such as prison.
“Sometimes it’s a defence mechanism against the reality of one’s circumstances and actions or can be a way of controlling the narrative about oneself.”
Guha treats offenders with a range of problem behaviours including stalking, sex offending, family violence, homicidal ideation and general violence.
She said: “There are no real ways to ascertain whether someone is lying. All that information about body language is not credible.
“The best way to protect oneself is really by doing due diligence – fact-checking, noticing whether certain things appear implausible, following up on hunches, looking at social media, and seeking collateral information from other sources.
“It’s hard to maintain narrative consistency and people can trip up or demonstrate ambiguities in their story. Often, we don’t follow up because we want to be kind or give someone the benefit of the doubt or perhaps we are just busy and discount inconsistencies.”
She said it was rare to see a fantasist who also exhibited sexually predatory behaviour.
Guha added: “Rape is a sexually predatory behaviour and it’s not uncommon for people who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviour to lie about their actions or deny and minimise to avoid penalties.
“However, it is more unusual for these specific lies and minimisations to be absorbed within a broader web of lies about one’s identity.”
Reclaim: Understanding Complex Trauma And Those Who Abuse by Ahona Guha is out this month
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