A lawyer in New Jersey was arrested Tuesday on multiple counts of rape and kidnapping in connection with four sexual assaults in Charlestown 15 years ago, thanks in part to advancements in genealogy and DNA sequencing.
Matthew James Nilo, 35, has been charged with three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of kidnapping, one count of assault with intent to rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in a New Jersey courtroom on Thursday.
Nilo has been indicted by a grand jury in connection with the Boston cases and will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court when he returns to Boston, according to a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden’s office.
The former resident of the North End is accused of sexually assaulting four women in the Terminal Street area on Aug. 18, 2007, Nov. 22, 2007, Aug. 5, 2008, and Dec. 23, 2008, Boston police Commissioner Michael Cox said Tuesday.
“All four cases are DNA connected,” Cox said.
A dozen FBI agents and Boston police officers arrested Nilo in the lobby of his Weehawken, N.J., apartment building, according to an affidavit filed in New Jersey court. The documents show that Nilo came down to the lobby with his fiancée after he was told “a large package had been delivered to him that did not fit in the facilities lockers where the residents pick up packages.”
As ”soon as Mr. Nilo approached the area, he was taken into custody,” officials wrote.
Authorities did not disclose details about the assaults but said investigators immediately shared news of Nilo’s arrest with the four women who had waited 15 years to learn who attacked them.
“We certainly realize that identifying this individual does not ease their pain, nothing can, but hopefully it answers some questions,” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston division, said at a news conference Tuesday.
He described the arrest as “a major break in this investigation that has haunted the survivors of these sexual assaults, the residents of Charlestown, and the Boston Police Department for years.”
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a federal program to help process sexual assault collection kits and reduce a persistent backlog, helped in the investigation, Cox said.
Investigators from the Boston Police Department’s Sexual Assault Unit reached out to the FBI for assistance in October, authorities said.
Using investigative genetic genealogy, a method that combines DNA analysis with genealogy research and historical records to generate new leads in unsolved homicides, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes, investigators identified Nilo as a suspect, Bonavolonta said.
Investigators received confirmation of Nilo’s identity last month, Bonavolonta said.
Casey Corcoran, senior director of community outreach, awareness, and prevention education at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said survivors can feel a range of emotions when an arrest is made years later.
“Every survivor is different,” Corcoran said. “There can be relief, but it can also [resurface] a lot of past trauma.”
Corcoran said the center offers a number of free services, including a 24-hour hotline, individual and group counseling, and case management. But not all survivors choose to file police reports, Corcoran said.
“There’s no guarantee that the justice system is going to deliver the answers or closure that a survivor is looking for,” Corcoran said. The center works to help survivors “make whatever choices are going to be healthiest” for each individual.
“For some, that does mean going to law enforcement,” Corcoran said.
Nilo has no record of professional discipline as a lawyer, according to documents posted to the New York court system site. He was admitted to practice law in New York in June 2019.
Nilo earned his law degree at the University of San Francisco in 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile and records posted to the New York State Unified Court System website. He has also lived in Wisconsin and New York, and authorities urged anyone who thinks they may have been victimized by Nilo to contact Boston police or the FBI.
He worked for five years at a San Francisco firm before moving to New York in 2019 to work at a different firm, where he worked for three years. He recently began working at the cyber insurance company Cowbell as a cyber claims counsel, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In a statement to the Globe, a company spokesperson confirmed his employment, adding that he was “hired in January 2023 after passing our background check.”
“Mr. Nilo’s employment at Cowbell has been suspended pending further investigation,” the company said in a statement.
He received his undergraduate degree in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he studied psychology, a school spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
In July 2008, while he was enrolled in college, Nilo was charged in Boston Municipal Court with a misdemeanor count of possession of a Class D drug and was placed on pretrial probation before the charge was dismissed, court filings show.
A notation on his docket from November 2008 said Nilo would be placed on pretrial probation through Feb. 18, 2009. The entry also noted that Nilo was “permitted to travel to school at the University Of Wisconsin — defendant is to attend 5 AA/NA meetings or any other self help group between December 12, 2008 and January 18, 2009.”
John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.