Whiz kid was really 23-year-old Ukrainian

Published 10:02 am Friday, March 4, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Honor student Asher Potts was well into his senior year in high school when police got a tip that the earnest teenager who had so impressed community leaders for nearly four years was not the person he claimed to be.

Investigators soon concluded Potts was actually a 23-year-old Ukrainian named Artur Samarin, who had overstayed his visa, and they said in charging documents that he confessed to having sex with an underage teen girl.

His arrest last week — charged first with identity theft, then with statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors — drew astonished responses from people who knew the boyish-looking Samarin through his participation in a school military program, his academic excellence and his acceptance to a prestigious flight school.

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“My understanding is his motives were pure coming over here, and given his time at John Harris (High School), no one had a complaint about him,” said his lawyer, Adam Klein. “Until that’s proven differently, that’s my feeling at this point — that he came here to do what many immigrants do, to take part in the American dream.”

Prosecutors said that they are working with federal investigators to piece together the facts about Samarin and that more charges are possible. But it’s clear he made an impression in Harrisburg.

The city’s mayor at the time pronounced Oct. 27, 2013, as Asher Potts Day to recognize his accomplishments; he was a student representative to the school board; and he was third runner-up for a spot on the homecoming court, Pennlive.com reported.