September 28th, 2011
11:35 AM ET

7 arrested in alleged SAT cheating scam

Authorities have arrested seven people in an alleged SAT cheating scam at a Long Island, New York, high school and are investigating whether the cheating extends to other schools.

Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, New York, was arrested Tuesday on felony fraud charges that could result in four years in prison if he's convicted, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office said. Six students face misdemeanor charges. Their names are not being released because they are minors.

Samuel Eshaghoff

Prosecutors allege Eshaghoff impersonated six Great Neck North High students between 2010 and 2011, charging between $1,500 and $2,500 to take the SAT test for them. Eshaghoff would take the test at schools other than Great Neck, where proctors would not be familiar with the students' identity, and present fake, unofficial identification, prosecutors say.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said authorities uncovered the scam after hearing rumors of cheating, comparing the test scores of suspects to their school grade-point averages, and finding a "wide gulf" in the cases of the six suspects. The district attorney's office said it is investigating possible cheating scams at two other Nassau County high schools as well as possible further instances involving Eshaghoff.

Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, said his client has pleaded not guilty in the case.

And he said cheating on tests is something that should be handled in schools, not in criminal courts.

"At what point are you going to draw the line?" Emouna asked during a phone interview with CNN Wednesday. "No one has had a case like this in the U.S., and I think attorneys are going to have a field day with it."

The victims in the case are students who are denied admission at the colleges of their choice by students who cheated, Rice said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."

"Honest kids should not be bumped out of college slots by kids who cheated," she said.

Rice called on the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit which administers the SAT test nationwide, to establish procedures to combat cheating, including photographing students as they take the test and attaching the picture to the answer sheet.

"We need ETS to tighten security they have at these test centers," Rice said.

She also called on ETS to inform colleges if cheating is suspected. ETS currently deals with suspected cheating by canceling test scores and offering refunds or retests or arbitration, according to the district attorney's office.

“Colleges look for the best and brightest students, yet these six defendants tried to cheat the system and may have kept honest and qualified students from getting into their dream school,” Rice said in a statement Tuesday.

Rice said authorities have no evidence implicating parents in the cheating scandal.

Great Neck North identifies itself as a high-performing high school, with a 97% graduation rate and almost 97% of students planning to pursue higher education.

"National publications consistently and historically have included Great Neck North High School among the top secondary schools in the country," the school says in a profile on its website.

The  mean scores achieved by Great Neck North students on SAT tests in 2010 were well above the national average, according to the profile.

Eshaghoff, a 2010 Great Neck North graduate, tested in the 97th percentile, Rice said. He is now enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta after attending the University of Michigan for his freshman year, the prosecutor's office said.

The next SAT test dates are this weekend and Rice said authorities would be vigilant.

“These arrests should serve as a warning to those taking the SAT this Saturday that if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences," Rice said.

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Filed under: Crime • Education • New York
soundoff (563 Responses)
  1. Lrc253

    $2500?? I worked part time during high school and I sure as heck know I couldn't afford that.. parents paying for this??

    September 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      you should have spent less money on drugs then...

      September 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sammy

      They are white priviledged kids no duh. It's the white version of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JohnMcLaugh

    death penalty. NOW!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sara B

    Something like this would happen on Long Island. Many Long Island families from that area can afford private tutors for their coddled babies....but coddling goes too far and the child in question can't think for his/herself. These are the kids that will have to work for their parents because no one else can take them seriously. And now that they are being charged with this...I hope it sticks to their permanent records for years to come.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JulieB

      I agree wholeheartedly. their parents had to have known and it is frighteningly sad commentary on their integrity.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JulieB

    It just goes to show you how cutthroat the whole college admissions process is. Just think, if you don't get into the "college of your dreams" are you are screwed for life? Sounds like it. Man, makes you wonder about the high number of kids for whom any college at all is not an option, either due to lack of interest, money or brain capacity. What will become of them?

    September 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dabble53

      They'll most likely become politicians/bureaucrats (and showing my bias, most likely members of the GOP)

      September 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      And according to most college students, it seems like there are only around 12 schools in the entire nation; the 7 "Ivy League" schools, NYU, Stanford, and a couple of others. God forbid going to a state school. Once students learn that graduating from Yale doesn't make you inherently better than someone who graduates from, say, a SUNY, they'll be better off.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Orlop

    The older I get the more I realize that cheating is a way of life in America. Those who work hard often find themselves used by others to get ahead.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Will I AM

    Wake up and smell the coffee. This has been going on for many years. Most of the time, the students needing the help are athletes unable to pass the test themselves. I would not be surprised if the parents were aware of it as well. Where else is a kid in highschool going to come up with $2500?

    September 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara B

      Kids in Great Neck North don't have to worry about coming up with money...it is an extremely affluent area.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • dabble53

      Ummmm.....from saving up their weekly allowance for a week or two???

      September 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ChicagoRob

    I'm sorry this is one of the few guys I would for sure hire right out of college..he found a niche for his skills and was smart enough to exploit it...thumbs up bud there is a future Wallstreet job waiting for you!!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dot

      Yes he would fit right in on Wall Street. Smart and greedy with NO morals. Just what we need to create another finanical crisis at the expense of those of us who HAVE morals. Greedy immoral people like him is EXACTLY the reason that government has to have regulations to protect the rest of us.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Thad

    When will we learn that education was never meant for the masses. The American educational system has always been meant for the privileged and particularly privileged white males. If this were not true, there would be no need for standardized tests that have been proven to be culturally biased, women would not have had to invoke suffrage movements to gain access to higher education, American Natives would not still live on Reservations being forced to attend inadequate schools, education would not be primarily funded through propety taxes, etc. Moreover, education would not be so costly if it were meant for all to benefit from obtaining a great education. I understand that some will achieve through hard work and/or superior intellect. However, I implore everyone to mentally record your local, state and federal politicians speeches on education. Each one will say how they're for education. All of them will say the same thing every election cycle. They tout how great our education system is compared to other countries. But, never speak the truth that its great for those who can afford to pay for it via parents wealth or being lucky to live in an area where property taxes are high which help fund the education system. Once again, I truly understand that some will overcome hardships through hard work and/or superior intellect. Don't get me wrong, I believe we have some of the best schools in the world, some of the most intelligent people in the world, but too many Americans are being left behind do to poor education. I understand that there are some who simply don't care to achieve greatness through education. However, for those that do we should not continue to hamper them based on their economic status or their inability to grasp certain curriculum. We all have something to offer the World for which we live. It's time we find ways to tap into everyone's abilities to extract the internal intellect that we all possess. Unfortunately, for these kids they used their internal greatness for mischief.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dot

      Well said. Those that are privileged and have access to a good education cannot understand why those less fortunate cannot just work hard and succeed. Historically literature has promoted the concept of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps". As a result, many privileged people feel that if you don't succeed it is your own fault. We often hear examples of people overcoming great odds and succeeding. However, this is a very small percentage of people. It is not because the rest aren't trying but if you keep hitting obstacles eventually you lose hope. As you alluded to education has been used to create barriers so that the rich can get richer and the poor poorer.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samsung

      The truth is, a lot of what you said is correct. I mean you can't argue with history. No it was not made for the masses, because why would it be a crime for African americans to know how to read? Why is it so hard to get the basics (reading, writing, math and science) in some schools? If these are the basics an American needs to survive, get a job and pay taxes, why is it that depending where you live, will determine if you have to share a book for class, or get a book at all. Higher education is a double-edged sword these days. You need it to make more money, but you can't get it because you don't have money. Why should it cost some $50-100,000, in loans for school to get a job making $30,000 upon graduation? And in order to 'save' money and hopefully get promoted, you are living with your parents, after graduation, loan payments are so high that you can't get an apartment if you wanted, and by no means you should default, you can forget it!

      September 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cnnobsrvr

    back when the highest possible score was 1600, i had a friend that had someone else take the test for him...and he got a 1500! there must be hundreds if not thousands of other similar cases. they will make an example out of this kid, but it won't alleviate the pressure and expectations that some parents have for their kids to do well on an overrated test. this story is just the tip of the iceberg...

    oh btw, my friend is now a doctor

    September 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jill

    not sure the "gig would be up" if he tried to pass himself off as "Emilio Ramirez" – I know a white guy adopted by hispanic parents with the last name "Rodriguez". what do you have to say about that?! anyway – doesn't make cheating right, I'm just sayin.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Joe here in Colorado

    Kathleen Rice needs to get a life. Cheating on a test is not something that should result in imprisonment, no matter what. Prison should be reserved for people who are a danger to society.

    At any rate, I scored 1590 on my SAT (out of 1600 back then, I've heard the scoring has changed?) and a 36 on my ACT (out of 36). My grades were a 2.7 GPA because I never turned in homework. Aced every test I ever took, but could not stand doing "busy work" because I was the kid who could watch the teacher do an example and just "know" it. My grades weren't congruent with my standardized test scores at all, and I didn't cheat.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rhonda

      My son had your same behavior/mentality.......... some people don't need to do homework...... let them test out...... low GPA but what does that buy you............

      September 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • dabble53

      So you'd be OK with a doctor working on you that had other people take tests for him? No danger to society?

      September 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimmie B.

      You think the only danger to society is criminals? I agree that these people shouldn't go to jail but do want any of these kids building the bridges you drive on? Working in the hospital you visit? Representing you in a public office? There are more dangers to society than just the criminals.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Shyster

    Fraud against the ETS. Good luck with finding a jury that will convict.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Stan

    Arrested? For cheating? Hmm.

    1. Remind me again what the criminal charge is for cheating and why government agencies are getting invoived?
    2. Why is the school not handling the punishment?
    3. Regarding the "victims that won't get into good schools", take the defendants to court. Oh, wait. Then everyone would feel the need to sue everyone else for something.

    How about sucking it up, biting the bullet, and rising above? Nevermind. That's too hard for the youth today.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JHL

      @stan: try reading the article and you'll figure out the criminal charges. Easier than that, there is now a video out which states the charges so you don't have to waste the day reading. Good work on getting the numbers in the right sequence.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. College Senior

    It's funny that an SAT scandal is just now surfacing. How about re-evaluating your proctors and testing procedures? Cheating on this exam has existed in the past and will continue with their lack of efficiency. Let's not even go into the test's unreliable ability to predict college success.
    I can remember a student sitting diagonally across from me at the SAT pulling out a computerized dictionary. That was 4 years ago.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. JamesT

    That attorney is WRONG to say this is not a matter for the criminal courts. If this was just students cheating on a test at their own school it should be dealt with by the school but this is a different. The test taker as well as the students he took the test for are committing fraud. Not only are college admissions at stake but so is a lot of money in scholarships and other financial aid that schools give out based on test scores. It's been a long time ago but I took the ACT 3 times to improve my score and was rewared with a full ride scholarship worth a LOT of money.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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