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Longtime child welfare reform advocate reported dead in 2020 found alive in Europe

File image of{ }Nicholas Alahverdian. (Photo: WJAR)
File image of Nicholas Alahverdian. (Photo: WJAR)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — Rhode Island State Police said Wednesday a longtime child welfare reform advocate who was reported dead almost two years ago has been found alive in Europe.

Maj. Robert Creamer said Nicholas Alahverdian was located in Scotland. No further information was immediately released.

On March 3, 2020, a statement claiming to be from the family of Alahverdian said that the 32-year-old died after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The life of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families reform advocate was quickly honored by legislators at the Rhode Island State House and with citations from local leaders, including from Woonsocket's mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.

"He was just always a fine young man, a gentleman, very dedicated to his cause," she told NBC 10 News Wednesday.

However, the Providence Journal reports that Alahverdian was found in Scotland a month ago after he was hospitalized with COVID symptoms.

"It would be really interesting to hear why he did all this," Baldelli-Hunt said.

Members of Alahverdian's own family said they were just as surprised as everyone else.

"I'm shocked. And honestly, I feel like I was used a little bit," his uncle, Michael Alahverdian of Connecticut, told NBC 10.

Michael Alavherdian said he even planned a funeral for his nephew after receiving a request over the phone from who he thought was Alahverdian's wife.

"I went along with it, meaning, I was unaware that this was a setup," he said.

Also Wednesday, the Utah County Attorney's Office said Alahverdian, which identified his real name as Nicholas Rossi, had been taken into custody and charged in connection to a 2008 sexual assault in Ohio.

"We weren't looking for him in Europe," said Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in a Zoom interview with NBC 10.

Leavitt said Alahverdian's DNA was recently entered into a database used by law enforcement around the globe and matched with evidence in a 14-year-old sexual assault case.

"It was a cold case because the suspect did a really great job of hiding himself and creating new identities," Leavitt said.

The office said it identified Alahverdian as the suspect by processing an original sexual assault kit from a Utah case that had never been tested.

In 2018, the DNA profile from the Utah case returned as a match for the alleged assault case in Ohio. The suspect, in the Ohio case, was identified as Alahverdian.

The county attorney's office said he "had fled the country to avoid prosecution in Ohio and attempted to lead investigators and state legislators in other states to believe that he was deceased."

After the 2008 alleged assault, authorities said Alahverdian was a "suspect in a number of similar offenses in Utah and throughout the United States."

The county attorney said efforts were underway to extradite Alahverdian to Utah, a process that could take months.

Alahverdian claimed he was abused and tortured during out-of-state placements in Florida and Nebraska, eventually exposing dangerous living conditions for children. He later sued those alleged abusers and state officials. The case was settled.

"We believe that there are other victims out there," said Leavitt. "Whether those victims are in Rhode Island, or in Ohio, or in Scotland, or anywhere else this individual has been -- we're asking anyone who has information about possibly being victimized by this suspect that they reach out to our office."

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Anyone who believes they were victimized by Alahverdian, or who has additional information that may help the case, can contact the Utah State Bureau of Investigation at 801-965-4747 or the Utah County Attorney's Office at 801-851-8026.

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