New Jersey attorney linked to three rapes after family submitted DNA to genealogy website

Matthew Nilo is facing charges for multiple rapes in the Boston area in 2007 and 2008 (LinkedIn via Boston Globe)
Matthew Nilo is facing charges for multiple rapes in the Boston area in 2007 and 2008 (LinkedIn via Boston Globe)

A New Jersey attorney is facing multiple rape charges after he was identified by DNA submitted to a genealogy website.

Matthew Nilo, 35, was arrested at his home in Weehawken on Tuesday in connection with three rapes and one attempted rape occurring between 2007 and 2008 in the Boston area.

Mr Nilo is accused of assaulting four women in Charlestown on 18 August 2007, 22 November 2007, 5 August 2008, and 23 December 2008.

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said the charges against Mr Nilo include 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.

Mr Nilo was reportedly identified after his family members voluntarily sent DNA samples to a genealogy database, according to ABC New York.

Addressing a news conference at the Boston Police headquarters, FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta said: “While we know today’s arrest of Mr Nilo cannot erase the harm he allegedly inflicted upon his survivors, we believe we have removed a dangerous threat from our community,”

In an interview with CBS News, forensic genealogist Michael Brophy explained how people are “becoming unwitting informants to putting their relatives in prison because their freely uploading DNA into databases” such as 23andMe.

Mr Brophy theorised that investigators probably recovered a semen sample from one of the victims and built a DNA profile of the perpetrator.

If a suspect hasn’t submitted their DNA into a public system, Mr Brophy continued, authorities “will take the first cousin or aunt or profile they’ve got a close match to and they will build the family tree”.

Authorities did not specify which genealogy website helped them track down Mr Nilo.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Nilo graduated from the University of San Francisco and was working as an attorney at a cyber insurance firm.

Speaking to WABC-TV, a representative for Cowbell Cyber said Mr Nilo joined the Manhattan-based firm in January 2023.

He has been suspended pending further investigation.

Mr Nilo is due to appear in court on Thursday (1 June).

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.