May 19—The man at the center of a highly publicized international saga whose face has been splashed all over the news in the U.K. claims he is an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight who has never been to America.
But two women who attended Sinclair Community College in Dayton 15 years ago believe — and Scottish courts agree — that he is Nicholas Rossi, a convicted sex offender who authorities allege faked his own death and fled overseas to try to avoid criminal prosecution.
"There's not a doubt in my mind that that's Nick," Mary Grebinski, a 34-year-old Greene County woman who was sexually abused by Rossi, said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News. "He's gotten fatter, and he's in a wheelchair, but you can tell."
The man has been fighting extradition to the United States, where Rossi faces multiple rape charges in Utah and is a suspect in a fraud case with ties to the Dayton area.
Rossi was also accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife, failing to repay money he borrowed from his partners and stealing money from a Canadian TV personality.
Rossi allegedly went to great lengths to try to convince the public, the media and law enforcement that he died of cancer in early 2020, including by creating fake online obituaries.
Rossi's legal troubles trace back to Dayton, where authorities were able to collect DNA that later allegedly connected him to a rape case in Utah. The FBI reportedly is seeking Rossi in connection to fraudulent accounts opened up in his foster parent's name.
Authorities and Grebinski said Rossi is very intelligent and he's taken some clever steps to try to avoid prosecution.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to get a book deal out of it," Grebinski said. "He's an opportunist, he's smart, it's just so sad that he's a predator ... if he put that to good use, he could be out here changing the world."
In late 2021, Scottish authorities arrested a man who was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital in Glasgow after they say they identified him as Nicholas Rossi, a U.S. fugitive.
That man has insisted in court and in media interviews that his name is Arthur Knight, he's from Ireland and he's never been to the United States.
In a recent interview with Dateline NBC, the man said, "I am not Nicholas Alahverdian and I do not know how to make this clearer."
Rossi has gone by multiple names and aliases, including Nicholas Alahverdian and Nicholas Brown.
Rossi was the last name of his adoptive father. As a child and a young man, he bounced around the foster care system, and he has lived in the Dayton area, Rhode Island and Utah.
But police officials said the hospitalized COVID patient in Glasgow had distinctive tattoos that matched Rossi's, and a forensic expert with Police Scotland testified in court that his fingerprints also were a match.
A Scottish judge last fall ruled that the evidence showed Knight is Rossi. Rossi has continued to insist that this is a case of mistaken identity.
He has claimed in court that he does not know how he got his tattoos, and he didn't have them before he went into a COVID coma and someone is trying to frame him.
Mungo Bovey KC, an attorney for Knight, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Rossi is wanted by authorities in Utah who say he is a suspect in a September 2008 rape case from Orem, which is located in Utah County.
He was accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, who said she refused his advances multiple times. The woman said she ended the relationship because he was becoming more aggressive and he owed her a lot of money he had not repaid.
The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office last fall also announced that it had filed a felony rape charge against Rossi for a separate incident involving a 26-year-old woman in Salt Lake City whom he dated for a couple of months in late 2008.
Rossi is accused of allegedly holding her down and forcing intercourse, according to a declaration of probable cause filed in district court for Salt Lake County.
The woman also allegedly loaned Rossi money he did not repay.
The Salt Lake District Attorney's Office said a no-bail warrant was issued for Rossi's arrest and it was working with the Utah County Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney to extradite him from Scotland.
Rossi was identified as a suspect in the Orem case when DNA evidence from a sexual assault kit was tested years after the incident and allegedly it matched samples that were collected from Rossi after he was convicted of sexual imposition and public indecency in Dayton Municipal Court.
Sinclair college incident
In late January 2008, Grebinski met Rossi on Myspace and they exchanged text messages.
Grebinski, who was then 19 years old, was taking classes at Sinclair Community College, and Rossi, 20, also attended the school.
Grebinski, who grew up in Huber Heights and who graduated from Wayne High School, was eating lunch with a friend in a dining area on campus when Rossi showed up uninvited.
Grebinski said Rossi, who she had never met in person before, talked her into walking with him even though she was heading to class.
"I messaged him on Myspace, but never expected to meet the creep," Grebinski wrote in a Sinclair college police witness statement she filled out later that day.
Grebinski said it was daytime and there were people all over campus and she never imagined she might be in danger.
But after they entered a staircase on the lower level of Building 8, Rossi pushed her against the wall and started kissing her.
Rossi pinned Grebinski and groped her and then he exposed his genitals and sexually pleasured himself.
"Looking back, I feel like he just manipulated me from the get-go," Grebinski told this newspaper. "He came on very strong romantically: 'You're beautiful, I'd love to start a relationship with you.' I told him I'm not interested in any of that. I had a boyfriend."
Grebinski reported the incident to Sinclair Community College police, and officers questioned Rossi, who claimed Grebinski was the aggressor.
Rossi was convicted of sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor, and public indecency, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
But Rossi appealed the case, and his sentence, including a requirement to register as a sex offender, was not imposed until later.
Little did Grebinski know that her court battle with Rossi was just beginning. He sued her twice, claiming she defamed him and damaged his reputation.
Another Dayton case
Rossi also was accused of sexual misconduct by another Sinclair Community College student in mid-January 2008, just weeks before he groped Grebinski.
Megan Lumnah, a 19-year-old Centerville High School graduate, interacted with Rossi for the first time on Myspace on Jan. 14, and she gave him her phone number, according to a Dayton police report.
The next day, he showed up at Sinclair college and he hung around her until he eventually convinced her to go back to his apartment, which was located in the Eastern Hills area, the report states.
Lumnah told police that Rossi kissed and groped her even though she told him to stop multiple times.
Rossi allegedly pushed his pelvis into hers and he exposed himself and pleasured himself multiple times, including while holding onto her wrist, the police report says.
Lumnah reported the incident to Dayton police, but days later she told officers she did not want to move forward with criminal charges.
Lumnah, who is now 34 and who lives out of state, told this newspaper in a recent interview she decided not to press charges because she spoke with a detective who told her this could be a very difficult case because she was of legal age, she was sober and there was no physical penetration.
The impression she got was this would be a "he-said, she-said" case, and she might have a hard time getting people to believe her, Lumnah said.
Lumnah said early on she tried to ignore and forget what happened to her. But she felt like she didn't own her own story, and she was letting Rossi own what happened to her. To try to change this, she started sharing her story and supporting other women who experienced similar things.
"I've worked very hard to not let him own my story and to have power over me," she said. "I don't care what happens to him."
Lumnah has seen some of the news coverage of "Arthur Knight."
She noted that he consistently covers his face with an oxygen mask and he often wears a large-brimmed hat, seemingly to conceal his face. The suspect has carted around an oxygen tank since he was released from the hospital, after he was very sick with COVID.
But Lumnah says it's Rossi. Of this, she's sure.
One year after Rossi was found guilty of sexual imposition and public indecency in Dayton Municipal Court, he filed a civil lawsuit against Grebinski in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.
The 2009 lawsuit claimed Grebinski damaged his reputation and caused him emotional stress and humiliation.
Later, in 2013, Rossi (under the name Alahverdian) filed a lawsuit in federal court that claimed Grebinski and her then-husband defamed and harassed him in posts they shared on social media.
He eventually lost both cases, and was forced to pay defendants' lawyer fees. But the first case lasted months and the second case went on for more than a year and they were a major source of stress and frustration for the woman he victimized.
The first lawsuit also included an exhibit that Rossi alleged was a blog post that Grebinski published on Myspace.
In the post he provided, Grebinski allegedly admitted that she lied about what happened between her and Rossi to protect her relationship with her boyfriend.
Citing this post as new evidence, Rossi requested a new trial, claiming this information vindicated him.
Grebinski denied authoring the post, and at a hearing for a motion for a new trial, Dayton police Detective Doug Roderick, an expert in computer forensics, testified that he was 90% certain the Myspace post was fabricated and not authentic.
He said the date on the post did not correspond with the correct day of the week, which was a big red flag.
Rossi only produced a hard copy of the post, and he didn't provide any digital evidence, like metadata, to support his claims, said Andrew Sexton, general counsel for the Dayton Police Department who at that time was an assistant city prosecutor.
Roderick said anyone with access to basic computer programs could easily alter or fabricate the post. To prove this point, prosecutors had an expert come to court who in a few simple steps helped create a fake Myspace page for the judge in the case, Sexton said.
Rossi was denied a new trial.
Rossi filed a lawsuit against about 30 local officials and organizations, including Sexton, the city of Dayton, Sinclair Community College, the state of Ohio, Dayton Municipal Court, judges, lawyers and others.
Rossi accused the defendants of wrongful prosecution, violating his rights and maliciously conspiring against him. Rossi did not prevail in any of the local court cases the Dayton Daily News reviewed.
Rossi served as his own lawyer in his lawsuits, which painted him as an innocent victim who was railroaded by bad actors and an unfair system.
Grebinski said the civil litigation was a major annoyance that was meant to intimidate and silence her.
She said she had to shell out thousands of dollars and borrow money from her parents to hire a lawyer.
Grebinski said she could not believe that someone who was criminally convicted of sexually abusing her could take her to court multiple times on bogus claims that were not dismissed immediately.
She said Rossi also posted personal information about her online, like her home address and photos of her daughter, and he urged people on an anti-feminist website to harass her.
Grebinski said she was dismayed to learn that Dayton prosecutors and her victim advocate could not help her legal defense against Rossi's lawsuits because it was a civil matter.
Grebinski said this experience changed her life forever, and she felt traumatized and powerless for a long time.
"It's changed me in so many ways," she said.
Rossi moved around the country in the years after his local criminal conviction.
But when he returned to the Dayton area, Rossi said he was in charge of something called the Community Progress Institute, which claimed its mission was to "foster a city renaissance" by bringing people back to downtown Dayton and improving families, neighborhoods and communities.
In 2015, he spoke during the public comment portion of multiple Dayton City Commission meetings to urge city leaders to pass a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide.
In his federal lawsuit against Grebinski, Rossi said he was the founding executive director or partner at several lobbying and legislative advocacy firms based in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.
Rossi called himself a youth advocate, and he was a vocal critic of Rhode Island's foster care system, which he claimed failed him and put him in situations where he was abused and mistreated. He participated in multiple press conferences at the Rhode Island statehouse where he called for foster care reforms. He went by the name Nicholas Alahverdian during these events.
In addition to the Utah charges, Rossi was arrested and later convicted of domestic simple assault in Rhode Island in 2010, according to the Providence Journal.
Police in Rhode Island also received a report that year from a woman who said Rossi held her against her will.
Later that year a woman filed a report with the Pawtucket police in which she accused Rossi of becoming enraged when she refused to have sex with him and he took her cell phone when she tried to call police and he demanded she repay him for dinner, the Journal reported.
Rossi also was being investigated by law enforcement after his foster parents, Sharon and Charles Lane, learned that someone had opened many financial accounts in Charles Lane's name without his consent, says a Montgomery County Sheriff's Office report.
Charles Lane, then 77, had moved to Salt Lake City with his wife, but they let Rossi, their foster child from Rhode Island, stay in their home on Redder Avenue in Harrison Twp., the report states. Rossi was supposed to buy the property from them.
In 2016, the Lanes learned that someone had opened up accounts in Charles' name after mail was forwarded to them in Utah from the Harrison Twp. home.
The accounts were in Charles' name and in the name of the Alahverdian Corp., and the accounts had run up charges of about $200,000, the report states.
In his report, the detective in the case said Rossi apparently had left the Dayton area and may be living in Rhode Island.
Officials with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said the case was passed on to federal partners since the victims lived out of state.
Derek Coats, an investigator with the Utah Department of Public Safety, said in Utah court documents that the FBI in Ohio told him that Rossi had been indicted for fraud and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
Grebinski said she's glad that DNA from her case helped connect him to other crimes.
But it took extraordinary steps from local law enforcement to make that happen.
Current law requires people arrested in Ohio on felony charges or adult offenders arrested on misdemeanor sexually oriented offenses to provide DNA to law enforcement. That was not the case when Rossi was arrested and convicted.
Rossi's sentence in the 2008 Dayton case was not imposed until he had exhausted his appeals, which only happened in the fall of 2012.
At that time, Rossi had to register as sex offender and he was placed on community control (probation) and he was required to complete a sexual awareness class.
But Rossi was living out of state by this time.
Sexton, the former city prosecutor, said he asked Sinclair police to put Rossi's arrest warrant into the system as a nationwide warrant, even though police agencies often only issue local warrants for misdemeanor crimes.
In the fall of 2012, Rossi was arrested by the Harvard Police Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sinclair college police officers then drove up to Massachusetts, took Rossi into their custody and then transported him back to Dayton and booked him in the Montgomery County Jail.
Sexton said Rossi's probation officer asked Sexton if they could force Rossi to provide DNA to authorities.
Sexton said under the law she could not force him to do it, but she could just ask him to provide a sample voluntarily.
"If he gives you consent, you can take his DNA, and that's what happened," Sexton said. "She asked him to give a DNA sample by consent and he did. That DNA was put into the system. It's my understanding that DNA is what's being used to connect him to cases in Utah and other places."
Sexton said he remembers reading Rossi's supposed obituary a few years ago that someone had forwarded him and immediately thinking that Rossi wrote it.
The 964-word obituary claimed Rossi's last words were "fear not and run toward the bliss of the sun," and as he died, on Feb. 29, 2020, music played in his room from the end credits for the 1997 film "Contact."
"Mr. Alahverdian was a painter, author, amateur ornithologist, political scientist, sociologist, accomplished orator and child welfare reform advocate," the obituary read.
Sexton told the Dayton Daily News, "It sounded like him, but more, Who would write that? And some of the things were fantastical."
The bizarre saga of Nicholas Rossi is far from over. Rossi's extradition hearing — though he's still going by the name Knight — is expected to take place in June.