Couple who took in Ukrainian impostor student defend actions

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 9:00 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A couple who housed a 23-year-old Ukrainian man who was attending a Pennsylvania high school under a fake name and helped him get a driver's license and Social Security card said Wednesday he told them he was much younger and lied about his mother abandoning him.

Stephayne and Michael Potts also denied that they took advantage of Artur Samarin, and they said that they went to the FBI late last year because his behavior had taken a dark turn and they worried that he might hurt fellow students.

"He just started changing, he started talking about people, he stated talking about hurting people," Stephayne Potts said during an interview with reporters at the office of the Pottses' lawyer.

Adam Klein, Samarin's lawyer, denied his client made any threats and said that everything the Pottses said is "rubbish."

The county prosecutor, Ed Marsico Jr., said it didn't appear that Samarin was a danger, but law enforcement agencies are still investigating.

Samarin, who attended school as Asher Potts, faces charges of identity theft and statutory sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

Stephayne Potts, 50, acknowledged Wednesday that she knew Samarin was in the country illegally while he lived with the couple for much of the past four years before moving in recently with another family. She said she knew that helping him stay in the country was wrong, but the Pottses said they loved him like their own child, ensured he had medical care, a therapist and the money — despite their low-income — to pursue a wide range of extracurricular activities, such as getting his pilot's license.

"There's nothing that we wouldn't have done for him," she said.

The Pottses have not been charged with anything.

Samarin's arrest last month drew astonished responses from people who knew the boyish-looking student through his participation in a school military program, his academic excellence and his acceptance to a prestigious flight school.

Stephayne Potts said Samarin told them that his Russian mother took him to Ukraine when he was 9 and abandoned him. They said they also believed he had led a difficult life in Ukraine because his body was riddled with scars, and even old bullet wounds.

However, Samarin's mother apparently lives in Ukraine and Samarin told a Harrisburg TV station that his family pooled money to send him to the United States "for a better life." After his visa expired, the Pottses said, they helped him enroll in high school, obtain a Social Security card and a driver's license in the name of Asher Potts.

In 2012, when they took him in, he told them he was 14, the Pottses said, and they said they believed him because he was going through puberty.