DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — A Ukrainian man who was arrested in Pennsylvania after impersonating a teenager admits he’s guilty, but insists the plot wasn’t his idea and says he has no regrets.
“It’s all about education,” Artur Samarin, 23, told WHTM, in a phone interview conducted Friday. “I’m not regretting doing it. I have spent all of my free time on education. I tried to do better for the society.”
Samarin — who had been attending high school in Pennsylvania for years under the fake name “Asher Potts” — was arrested Tuesday by police in Harrisburg. He was charged with identity theft, tampering with public records, theft by unlawful taking and three counts of conspiracy. On Friday, additional charges of sexual assault and corruption of minors were filed against him, in connection with an alleged sexual relationship in 2014 with a then-15-year-old female student.
That relationship — or one like it — led to his undoing. In December 2015, authorities received a complaint that Samarin was “in the United States illegally, and was having sexual relationships with female students.” An investigation ensued and he was arrested on February 23.
A better life
Speaking from Dauphin County Prison, where he is being held in lieu of $20,000 bond, Samarin said he came to the United States because he wanted a shot at a better life than he could find in his native country.
“Ukrainian people were starving,” he said. “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.”
“I had a dream,” he continued. “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.”
‘It was not my idea’
At the time of his arrest, Samarin was living with a married couple, identified by WHTM as Michael and Stephayne Potts. Samarin says they came up with the plan to fake his identity.
“I just want you to know it was not my idea,” he told WHTM.
“Stephayne came up with the idea that we are going to adopt you,” he continued. “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. And they bumped five years of my age and they did not adopt me but make me their legal child.”
Samarin told WHTM that the Pottses helped him obtain a driver’s license, Social Security card and other documents he used to falsify his identity. He insists that they used the situation to turn him into their servant.
“Everything they ask of me I could not tell them no,” he told WHTM. “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, all the housework. 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.”
A star student
Authorities aren’t sure when Samarin arrived in the United States. Records show he had a three-month exchange visitor visa and worked for a local company in Harrisburg. When that expired, he applied for and was granted a tourist visa, which expired on March 1, 2013.
By then, Samarin has already enrolled as a freshman at John Harris High School, where he distinguished himself as a star student. He maintained a 4.16 grade point average, was a member of the National Honor Society and a lieutenant in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was also enrolled as a student at Harrisburg University, according to WHTM.
But Samarin had already graduated from high school and attended two years of college in his native Ukraine before he ever came to the United States, authorities said.
In the interview with WHTM, Samarin admitted his guilt.
“I am guilty. I am,” he said. “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 here in this prison because I’ve done a crime.”
‘I love here and I am American’
But Samarin insists he was motivated by his dreams of the United States.
“I love here and I am American,” Samarin continued. “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.”
Harrisburg Police said they are investigating Samarin with the help of the Department of State, the FBI, the Ukrainian Embassy and Immigration and Customs. Additional arrests are likely, according to WHTM.
Samarin has a preliminary hearing on March 4, according to court documents. His attorney did not have a comment about the case when reached by CNN on Saturday.