- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A 23-year-old Ukrainian man accused of faking his age while attending a Pennsylvania high school and having sex with an underage girl saw an identity theft charge dropped against him on Thursday, but a judge delayed ruling on his request for lower bail.

A district judge in the Harrisburg suburbs decided there was enough evidence against Artur Samarin to send a count of unsworn falsification to county court for trial. Those allegations involve an application he submitted for admission to a citizens’ police academy. The prosecutor said he would refile the identity theft charge.

Samarin still awaits a preliminary hearing on separate charges of theft, identity theft, conspiracy, tampering with public records, statutory sexual assault and corruption of minors.

Dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit, handcuffed and wearing glasses, Samarin spoke briefly with reporters on his way out of the hearing, and responded in English to a Ukrainian television reporter’s questions in their native tongue.

“I just want to have a better life,” he said.

Swatara Township Police Chief Jason Umberger testified that he first met Samarin, who called himself Asher Potts, while volunteering in December 2014 at a “shop with a cop” event that pairs economically disadvantaged children with police officers to spend $100 buying Christmas presents for the children’s families.

Umberger said Samarin expressed interest in the educational citizens’ police academy his department runs but was too young to participate. When they encountered each other in January at an anti-violence event in Harrisburg, Samarin said he had turned 18 and remained interested, so Umberger sent him an application.

Umberger told Dauphin County prosecutor Fran Chardo he would not have admitted Samarin to the program if he knew he had given him a fake name and age.

“That would have been dishonest and misleading, and part of our application process is that we admit people who are at least honest about their identity,” the chief said.

Lt. Darrell Reider, a detective, told the judge that Samarin apologized for lying the day in February when he was arrested.

“He said to me … I apologize for that, I know that I disappointed Chief Umberger and I respect him very much,” Reider said.

A search for others named Asher Potts turned up a man named Gabriel Asher Potts in Alabama, who told Reider two days ago that he was victim of credit card fraud from Pennsylvania, Reider said, but authorities have not found any evidence linking him to Samarin.

In a separate and very brief proceeding earlier in the day, a few miles away, a county judge said she would consolidate two other remaining sets of charges against Samarin for a preliminary hearing, and at that time consider his request to lower bail, currently set at $240,000.

A bail bondsman willing to put up the money and friends who would let Samarin stay with them attended the hearing, but it’s unlikely he will be a free man any time soon. Samarin’s attorney, Adam Klein, said federal immigration authorities have ordered him held under allegations he stayed in the United States illegally after his tourist visa expired in 2013.

Klein said posting bail would allow Samarin to be transferred about 25 miles away to York, where immigration officials operate a facility inside the county prison.

“I think it would be better for him and give us an opportunity to work with immigration counsel at that point,” Klein told Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo.

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