HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Twenty-three-year-old Artur Samarin, who posed as a Harrisburg High School student since the fall of 2012, has now been charged with statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors.
Police said he was having sexual relationships with female students while claiming to be an 18-year-old senior at the school.
According to police, Samarin had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student in 2014 when he was 22 years old.
Investigators said Samarin was also a student at Harrisburg University.
Samarin, who went by the name “Asher Potts,” was arrested on Tuesday and charged with false identification. He previously was facing identity theft and tampering with public records charges.
According to police, Samarin is a Ukrainian immigrant. He graduated high school and attended two years of college there.
Investigators said Samarin arrived in the U.S. on a three-month exchange visitor visa and worked for a local company during that time.
Police said after his visa expired, Samarin received a tourist visa. The tourist visa expired March 1, 2013.
Investigators said he used falsified documents to enroll at Harrisburg High School, including a Social Security card that he received after going to several Social Security Administration offices.
Harrisburg police said they are still investigating with help from the U.S. Department of State, FBI, the Ukrainian Embassy, and U.S. Immigration and Customs.
Investigators are expecting to make additional arrests.
From a phone inside the Dauphin County Prison, Samarin told his side of the story to ABC27.
“It was not my idea, I just want to let you know it was not my idea,” he said.
Samarin says he came to the United States for a better life.
“Ukrainian people were starving, [including] my family. My mother, my grandfather, and my grandma, they put their last money for me to come here and they told me: ‘We wish you well. Do your best, man. Do it for all of us’,” he said.
Samarin says he came to the United States in 2012 and met Michael and Stephayne Potts. He claims he reached out to them for help when his visa expired.
“Stephayne came up with the idea that we are going to adopt you. We are going to bump five years of age and we can adopt you because at 20 years old we can’t adopt you, so bump five ages and we will adopt you. I said ‘OK, looks like I have no choice’. I really had no choice, either go back to war or do this,” he said.
Samarin told ABC27 his “adoptive parents” helped him get a birth certificate with the name Asher Potts and a birth date in 1997, as well as a Social Security card. He also claims they held it over his head.
“Everything they ask of me I could not tell them no. If I say no, they gonna call immigration and send me back, which I did not want. I was afraid of that, so I was cleaning the toilet, I was cooking for them, I was doing everything in [the] house. Stephayne was taking classes in HACC and I was doing homework for her. Pretty much like a slave driver system, but I didn’t mind as long as I’m going to school,” he said.
ABC27 contacted Stephayne Potts about Samarin’s claims. She declined to comment.
Samarin says he was a straight-A student at Harrisburg High School and put in hours of community service, donated more than a gallon of blood to the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, and noted former Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson issued a proclamation claiming October 27 as “Asher Potts Day”.
Below is a transcript of some of the 15-minute phone conversation between ABC27 reporter Kendra Nichols and Artur Samarin:
Nichols: “Do you prefer that I call you Asher? What would you like me to call you?”
Samarin: “You can call me Asher. Asher Potts is good.”.
Nichols: “How are you feeling?”
Samarin: “I am constantly shaking. I have been shaking for the past, I don’t know three, four days, and it is just scary. That’s how I feel, scared.”
Nichols: “Do you believe you are guilty of these charges?”
Samarin: “Unfortunately ma’am, I don’t want to say it, I am guilty. I am. It’s justice. What can I say? I did abuse the system. Yes, I did. I did use this identity and it’s the law. I’m a cadet and as a cadet I have honor and honor tells you that yes I did and I’m here for a reason. I’m here in this prison because I’ve done a crime. I’m a criminal, unfortunately, but it is true.”
Nichols: “How old are you?”
Samarin: Asher is 18 years of age and Artur is 23. It was not my idea. I just want to let you know it was not my idea.”
Nichols: “What do you want to say to all the people that supported you and believed in you and now they might feel betrayed because you were somebody that you weren’t?
Samarin: “I want to tell them that I had a dream. I still have a dream. I love the United States. It’s a land of opportunity for all of us immigrants and this land provided me with opportunities with limitless friends. It opened golden doors, [a] golden gate for me.”
Nichols: “Do you regret doing it?
Samarin: “No, I’m not regretting doing it. I have spent all of my free time on education. It’s all about education. I tried to do better for the society.”
Nichols: “Is there anything you want to add before we have to say goodbye?”
Samarin: “I just want to – it’s really hard to get my thoughts together, but I love here and I am American. I’m considering myself American now. American, it’s not your place of birth, it’s something [that] goes on inside of your soul. It is the way you feel. It is liberties and justice that you earn and I love it. That’s probably all, ma’am.”
Police filed new charges against Samarin on Friday, statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors, for his alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student in 2014.
ABC27 was not aware of the additional charges when Samarin called from prison, so he was not given an opportunity to respond.