Adoption is seen as a beautiful thing all over the world. It's the opportunity for children to starts their lives over by getting a fresh start with their new family. Thousands of children wait every year to get adopted, and when it finally happens, it's a big deal.
Artur Samarin, a boy from Ukraine, was given a chance to live in the United States with his adopted parents. But things took a turn for the worst when they discovered Potts wasn't who he said he was. Though this story will sound like it's the plot of a horror film, this actually happened in real life.
It all started back in 2012
Usually, the normal adoption process is done with an adoption service and takes years to fully complete. It's not an easy procedure for anyone who's looking to bring a child into their home. But, in this case, things were a little different.
The Potts met Artur Samarin back in 2012 when he was visiting Pennsylvania's capital city during a three-month exchange program with other Ukrainians. Asher's mother and grandfather wanted Asher to go to the United States to start a new life.
Before meeting the Potts, Artur was obsessed with America
During his exchange program in the United States, Artur quickly became obsessed with the United States and dreamed of studying at an American University, and graduate school with the hopes of joining NASA. But there was one thing in the way of achieving his dreams: the cost.
American colleges are expensive and cost 20 times more than schools in Ukraine. Even though he was working at Red Robin as a fry cook, he still couldn't make enough money to cover the costs of college. And this is when the Pott's family was introduced to Artur.
What's the easiest way to make it into America?
Without any money, it was clear Artur wasn't going to be able to afford college. Plus, scholarships in America aren't provided for international students, even though Artur was an exceptional student. Artur's options were slim. Artur was running out of time and ideas.
But his luck was just about to change as he then met Stephayne and Michael Potts, a childless couple who quickly became friends with the desperate student, Artur. That's when their plan of adopting Artur started to brew.
The Pott's family decided to take Artur Samarin in
The Pott's family decided to take Artur Samarin in after he showed them some horrific scars. Stephayne Potts said that after he showed them bullet wounds and knife scars, which he said he got as a child in Russia.
After finding that out, the Potts family felt they couldn't let him go back to his home country. So, they offered him to live at their house with them. Initially, you think it's a kind gesture, but that's when this rollercoaster of events started to happen.
The adoption idea was a murky one
Till today, no one knows whose idea it was to adopt Artur. Although, Artur claims that after going to the Potts's house several times for dinner, the idea of adopting Artur into their family began to develop. He said the Potts offered to adopt him but on one condition.
The condition was that he change his age from 19 to 14, which would allow him to get adopted, and for the family to receive a payout from the Social Security Administration and attendant tax benefits. But that's not all. Artur was also asked to pay the Potts's family $2000 to cover the adoption fees. Since he was desperate to stay, Artur agreed to the conditions.
But living with his new adopted parents wasn't close to the American Dream
Artur decided to change his name to Asher Pott and live as the child of Stephayne and Michael Potts with the hopes of starting his life over in America. And although Artur agreed to the adoption conditions, living with Stephayne and Michael wasn't what he expected.
He claims he was forced to sleep on a couch in a walk-in closet, and as he said, it [his room] was small than Harry Potter's room. He said the couple held his immigration status over his head and used it to manipulate him. But that wasn't all they did.
He pulled off being a high school student effortlessly
But while going to high school, Artur Samarian wasn't called by that name. Instead, he went by Asher Potts. Doesn't it remind you of 21 Jump Street? You know, when baby-faced cops pretend to be high school students?
Well, this is basically what happened, only Asher wasn't a cop, he was a 23-year-old Ukrainian man. Through high school, he acted like an upstanding student, fooling everyone of who he really was. But how did people fall for it?
Artur's story wasn't that unusual
When it came to talking about himself in high school, he kept his story very simple and to the point. During his high school attendance, he told staff and students he was homeschooled until high school and grew up in the Russian-Jewish neighborhood down by the river.
That seemed like enough information for everyone, and no one suspected a thing. It also helped that he was a very talented student as he received straight As, and won numerous accolades. A Sunday in October was even named after him, calling it 'Asher Potts Day." But how did Asher manage to enroll in high school?
There's a missing link to the story
Though most of us are probably sympathizing with the Potts family, there's one issue with the story. How did Asher manage to enroll in high school? When you enter into any educational institution, you need to provide evidence of who you are.
How could Asher of entered high school when his documents show he's not of the proper age to attend high school? Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said, "Most of those require some type of parental involvement, so it became apparent they had to be involved in some of these situations."
The Potts family stood their ground
Though there's a clear issue with the Potts's story, Stephane stayed true to her claim, saying that, "I still don't believe he's 23, y'all gonna have to prove that to me. Somebody's got to do something to prove that we watched this boy go from high-pitched tones to the way he speaks now, his shoe size, his clothing size, he got taller."
In her eyes, she brought him up as if he was her own child, and she truly felt that. Or at least, that's what she wants the people to believe. But if she felt this, then what made her change her mind about Asher and turn him into the FBI?
So what made Stephayne turn Asher in?
Most parents would never imagine turning into their own child to the FBI. Though, she didn't turn him in because she found out he was 23-years-old. Stephayne claims the reason she turned him in was that she found out he was planning an attack on his high school.
Stephayne said, "He changed, he started talking about certain kids in the school that he wanted to hurt, and he talked about you know actually blowing the school up, and I said 'What? I was concerned about weapons. I was concerned he had started closing his door and he was talking to somebody in Russian." But that's not what Artur had to say about the situation.
Artur said living with the Potts was a "slave driver" situation
We hear all the time of adoption and foster care stories going horribly wrong, and apparently, for Artur, he was living in a nightmare. While living with the Potts, Artur claimed that if he failed to do their laundry, cook meals, or wash their dishes; they would hold his status above his head.
They would taunt him by saying, "Well, how 'bout we call immigration?" He also said he was physically abused by them as they would hit him. But, what was even worse was that he said the couple seized his documents and passport so that he was stuck.
Artur did try to escape
Surprisingly, even knowing the consequences of the police discovering his true identity, Artur did run away on several occasions. However, he was never successful as the couple would always find him and then threaten to expose his identity to the police.
But finally, Artur decided he had no choice but to leave the Potts's home, and he did. He moved in with a friend's family, and for a moment, Artur felt that he was finally free. But that was when Stephayne made the call to the FBI.
The discovery of Artur's true identity landed him in jail
After Artur moved out of their house, Stephayne called the FBI, reporting her adopted son wasn't who he claimed to be. In 2016, two police officers arrived at Artur's high school and arrested him in the middle of class. When they arrested him, they called him by his real name, Artur, and not by his fake name, Asher.
Once they started to poke around Artur's background, they discovered all the deception going on, including outstaying his visa, document fraud, and falsely receiving state-funded education. For Artur, his hopes of achieving the American Dream was coming to an end. But they also discovered another thing...
Artur had a relationship with a 15-year-old girl
As if things weren't already bad for Artur, the police discovered during his time in high school; he was in a romantic relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Now, depending on the laws, that isn't necessarily a problem; however, did you forget he's not 15-years-old?
At the time of the relationship, Artur was 22-years-old, which made this romantic encounter a serious crime. Artur was convicted of statutory sexual assault and fraud charges. It looks like he took on his role as a high school student a little too seriously. But he wasn't the only one who was charged.
The Potts family maintains their innocence, but the courts aren't buying it
As you can see from the story, it's hard to believe the Potts couple had no involvement in this situation. Although it's nice to believe Stephayne and Michael are innocent, without their involvement, Artur wouldn't have been able to enter high school.
So, naturally, both Stephayne and Michael were given probation for this hoax and were ordered to spend five months in prison. Though this wasn't the first time Stephayne Potts was involved in illegal business. If anything, she's an experience con-artist.
Stephayne Potts was known for being a con-artist
You know the old saying, 'it takes one to know one.' Stephayne was a great actor, but there's one thing she couldn't hide from, and it was her criminal record history. Prior to his hoax with Artur, Stephayne had encountered the wrong side of the law for similar reasons.
Previously, she received three other convictions for theft by deception and another conviction for bad checks. Now that we know her past isn't clean, and that it's connected to similar crimes, there's a high chance this hoax wasn't by accident and that it was very well planned out.
Stephayne and Michael Potts still claim their innocence
An expert con-artist can never reveal they're true intentions. This is the big difference between the Potts family and Artur. Even though Michael Potts received two years of probation and Stephayne received five months in federal prison and two years of probation for Social Security fraud and harboring an illegal alien, Stephayne and Michael still say, "All we wanted was a child."
Artur's attorney, Adam Klein, said "She [Stephayne] is trying to paint herself as the victim. One would only need to look at her criminal history to see she is a con artist." While we know what happened to the Potts couple, what happened to Artur?
Artur did do time in prison
There's no question about it, Artur was charged and sentenced to prison for his cooperation in this extravagant hoax. But he only spent less than a year in prison in the United States until he was deported back to Ukraine. While back in Ukraine, Artur tried to settle into his new normal life and get back on his feet. And even though he knows what he did wrong, he still hopes one day to make it back to the United States.
While in the United States, Artur formed numerous friendships with people he's still in contact with today. He said, "Those friends of mine, they are America for me, and they're what makes America great. They're always asking when I'm coming back." Will Artur ever make it back to the United States?
How does Artur feel about the hoax?
When you look at the entire situation, if we were in Artur's shoes, we would be mad at ourselves and the Potts family for everything that happened. But for Artur, he holds nothing against them. Actually, it's rather the opposite, as he said in a GQ interview, "I don't want to call them bad people, I forgave them, I wish them the best of lives."
But of course, he regrets what he did and feels sorry that he broke the law. What he really regrets though, is ruining his chance of ever returning to the United States, which continues to haunt him to this day as before he was caught, he was accepted to numerous universities throughout the United States.
What is Artur up to now?
Life hasn't changed much for Artur since he's back in Ukraine. As of 2018, Artur was attending school in Ukraine, learning to become an engineer. In 2019, he graduated with his degree and had started his Master's degree. His dreams of continuing his education haven't changed, and he's still an exceptional student.
Though he wasn't able to attend the university of his dreams in America, it hasn't stopped him from continuing his life and working towards his non-American based goals. As he said in a 2018 interview, "A coal doesn't want to be a coal, it wants to be a diamond." We hope he reaches his goals and dreams.