A man arrested earlier this month in St. Peter’s Square while carrying three 8-inch knives is a former convict and fugitive from the law in New York state.

Moises Tejada, 54, is on the Most Wanted Fugitives list of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision because, authorities there say, he violated the terms of parole from state prison on kidnapping and robbery convictions. 

Tejada twice immobilized real estate agents and stole from them while posing as a home buyer, according to New York state authorities.

More recently, he was arrested on Wednesday, April 10, the same day Pope Francis gave a general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The man attracted the attention of authorities, who found the knives, Reuters reported.

Tejada’s arrest was first reported earlier this month by La Repubblica, a daily newspaper in Italy, with the lead sentence (in Italian): “What was an American armed like a butcher doing in Rome?” 

Tejada, “posing as a potential customer of a realtor who was showing him the inside of a home, pointed a gun at the realtor, handcuffed him to a pole, and robbed him of personal property including his car” in Suffolk County, Long Island, according to a judge who summed up the case against him in a 2004 appeal of a 1999 conviction. 

Tejada also committed “a nearly-identical crime … against another realtor” in Brooklyn, according to the appeals court decision upholding the Suffolk County conviction. 

He was sentenced to 20 years to life. 

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Tejada began serving his time in state prison on the kidnapping and robbery convictions in March 2000, state corrections officials told CNA on Tuesday. He was released on parole in May 2018 but was returned to prison in January 2022 for violating the terms of release. 

Tejada was subsequently released on parole from Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Fallsburg, New York, in March 2022. But seven months later, in October 2022, state corrections officials issued a warrant for his arrest for failing to report to his parole officer. 

Tejada recently arrived in Rome after spending time in Moldova, Italian authorities told La Repubblica. Tejada told Italian authorities that he had been fighting in Ukraine for that country against the Russians since 2022, which is also around the time he failed to report to his parole officer in New York state. 

The Office of Special Investigations of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is working with the U.S. Marshals Service to extradite Tejada from Italy to the United States. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals said the agency does not usually comment on extradition cases until after they occur. 

In April 2022, one month after his second release on parole and six months before he went missing, Tejada sued the city of New York’s Department of Corrections, saying he sustained “severe and permanent injuries when he slipped and fell due to water which had accumulated and remained on the floor of the bathroom” at Rikers Island, a city jail, while he was detained there in January 2021 for reasons not stated in the complaint.