But that’s off the table after his life came crashing down last week.
The 18-year-old Asher Potts, it turns out, was actually 23-year-old Artur Samarin, a Ukrainian national, police said.
He was arrested on charges that included identity theft and tampering with public records (both of which were related to his false identity), and sexual assault and corruption of a minor for allegedly sleeping with a 15-year-old student while he was 22.
Harrsiburg police were first tipped off to Samarin on Dec. 11, when they received a complaint alleging that he was in the country illegally and was having sex with girls at the school.
Samarin had enrolled in high school using false documents in the fall of 2012 despite having finished high school and two years of college in the Ukraine, police said. He was in the United States in the first place on a visitor visa and remained after obtaining and outstaying a tourist visa that expired on March 1, 2013.
Police said they expect to make more related arrests.
Stephayne Potts came up with the idea to present Samarin as a teen so that the couple could adopt him, Samarin told the station. In exchange — and out of fear that they could out him — he did chores, he said.
“I was cleaning the toilet, I was cooking for them, I was doing everything in [the] house,” said Samarin, who added that he came to the United States in search of a better life. “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.”
Samarin admitted to adopting the fake identity in the interview.
“I don’t want to say it, I am guilty. I am. It’s justice,” he told ABC27. “What can I say? I did abuse the system. Yes, I did. I did use this identity and it’s the law. I’m a cadet and as a cadet I have honor and honor tells you that yes I did and I’m here for a reason. I’m here in this prison because I’ve done a crime. I’m a criminal, unfortunately, but it is true.”
Police say he obtained a social security card after repeated application attempts at multiple locations.
Samarin excelled under his adopted identity. He earned straight A’s, volunteered, donated blood, and even got an official mayoral proclamation naming Oct. 27, 2013, “Asher Potts Day,” according to PennLive.
Asher Potts was featured prominently in a 2014 Lebanon Daily News story about food bank volunteers.
In it, Potts — identified as a 17-year-old John Harris High student — explained how he got involved:
“My parents and I were at Walmart, and when we were in the check-out line, the lady in front of us couldn’t pay for her food and had to put it back,” Potts said.
Curious, Potts asked his parents why she had to put back the items, and they told him she couldn’t afford the food. Potts then asked his parents if they could afford food and they told him “yes.”
“That’s when a lightbulb went on and I knew I needed to help the less fortunate,” he said.
Potts was “the perfect role model, someone you would want your son to look up to,” Marcel McCaskill, who knew Potts through a math and science program, told the Associated Press.
McCaskill told the AP that he was shocked to hear that “Asher Potts,” whom he’d met during a seven-week math and science program, was actually Artur Samarin.
“It’s totally mind-blowing to me,” said McCaskill, a student in his first year at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. “Honestly, he was a very respectable guy. He was the perfect role model, someone you would want your son to look up to.”
This post has been updated.