HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The adoptive parents of a Ukrainian man accused of posing as a Harrisburg High School student sat down with ABC27 for an interview, but one topic shut down the interview.
For about two hours, ABC27’s Dave Marcheskie sat down with Michael and Stephayne Potts and their attorney, Corky Goldstein.
The couple maintained they were unaware of Artur Samarin’s true age, now 23, until ABC27 broke the story in March. The couple said they still do not believe Samarin is a man in his 20s and they believe they witnessed him go through puberty.
They were quick to concede they were questioned by the Inspector General’s Office about government aid for food stamps and medical insurance under Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Goldstein said he was told the information discussed during the brief meeting was sent to the Dauphin County district attorney’s office for further review.
One detective told ABC27 News the couple was being investigated to see if they knowingly scammed the system to receive government aid, forging the identity of Artur Samarin to Asher Potts in order to adopt him for financial gain.
The couple said they have been evicted three times and have always struggled to make ends meet, but they were adamant they never fraudulently received low-income help and still shocked over the entire ordeal.
In question is how the couple helped Samarin obtain a Social Security card. Stephayne Potts said they discovered baptismal certificates could be accepted as a government-recognized document. When asked where they obtained the certificate, she refused to answer.
“Where did you get the certificate?” Marcheskie asked.
“Umm, from a church,” Potts answered.
“I don’t want to say the name of the church.”
“Why can’t you say the name of the church?”
“I refuse to tell you the name of the church.”
After ABC27 named the church, Church of God Saints of Jesus, Potts confirmed.
A spokesperson has said the church did not give the family, nor do they offer, baptismal certificates. Potts did not specify whether she received the certificate by mail or in person.
When pressed further about how she obtained the certificate and therefore the Social Security card, Potts shut down the on-camera interview.
“OK, so let’s just do it this way. Let’s just end this,” she said. “Cut your camera. Please, cut your camera. We don’t have anything else to say. Cut your camera.”
Prior to this exchange was a line of questioning regarding how the couple’s relationship with Samarin fell apart. Potts said Samarin ran away at the end of October, but they knew he was still in high school. She later admitted they knew the Middletown family with whom Samarin was living.
Potts said she called immigration officials in November and decided to confess to helping a Ukrainian boy remain in the country. Potts said the officials told her to contact the FBI, which she did in mid-December, claiming she was concerned Samarin might threaten other students.
Investigators said Potts’s claims of Samarin hoarding weapons or making threats against other students have been unfounded to this point. When asked why she waited nearly a month to contact the FBI if she was concerned for other students, she responded, “I don’t know.”
Potts also said Samarin knew their deal was that when he turned 18 on September 3 , he would have to move out on his own. Samarin previously told ABC27 he moved out in October, which angered the Potts family.
Potts said she has not reached anger as of yet, but is in shock and saddened to lose a son. Prior to shutting down the interview, Potts said people have been treating her unfairly as she lost a son.
“He was our child,” she said. “I may seem like right now, I’m not who people want me to be because there’s just too much going on, just too much happening.”
Potts said she has not contacted Samarin at the request of her attorney and investigators. She added that even if she goes to prison, she plans to write a book about her experience.