It was, as the headline at GQ puts it, "one of the boldest hoaxes of our time." Hard to argue: In 2016, police in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, arrested a star high school student who went by the name of Asher Potts. As it turned out, however, Asher Potts was actually a Ukrainian man named Artur Samarin, and he was 23, not 18. Incredibly, Samarin's deception had begun four years earlier, when he began attending high school in Harrisburg as a freshman. The ruse finally ended when two police officers arrested him in his senior classroom, when he was on the brink of attending the college of his choice to fulfill a dream of becoming a scientist. Now Daniel Riley of GQ unspools the story and catches up with Samarin in his native Ukraine—where he was deported after a stint in US prison.
"It was like hell, but squared," Samarin says. "But being in prison was not the worst, it was being on the media. Colored in terrible, terrible paints. ... I was heartbroken." Samarin had originally come to the US legally on a temporary visa, before agreeing to let an adult couple he'd befriended adopt him so he could remain. He says it was their idea to falsify his age and enroll in high school, so they could collect tax benefits. (Both were eventually convicted for their roles in the scheme.) Things began to unravel when Samarin applied for a passport as "Asher Potts," and the feds figured things out. Samarin spent about 14 months in prison for statutory sexual assault (he'd had a high school girlfriend) and Social Security fraud. Now he's back in college in Ukraine, picking up where he left off after a five-year gap, but worried that his criminal record will limit his future. Read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)