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. Austin Tx.

    What about the kids who get excluded from colleges because of there skin color? If you are black or Hispanic applying to Wisconsin University you have a better chance of being accepted with lower test scores and class rank than whites and Asians. If the system is going to cheat them, why not cheat the system. The blacks and Hispanics have figured it out.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NBABE

    Sounds like another one of those Hollywood movies to me ...

    September 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hypocrite

    Typical Iranian Jews from Great Neck.

    Most of them are a bunch of liars, cheats, and criminals.

    I have first hand experience, and shockingly, I'm also a Jew.

    September 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. avery

    thousands of dollars i think the guy and girls who did it have to take another test and they can not go to the collage they all ready applied for

    September 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bradford

    i had 3 SAT strategies: 1) get drunk the night before and be passed out by 7 to wake up at 4:30 am 2) take a whole bunch of aderal 3) get a good night's sleep and wake up early..... surprisingly, i did the best on #1

    October 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Esagoff is a Democrat politician

    Sam Eshaghoff is not GOP and is not a Tea Partier. Sam's mother, Janet Esagoff, is a Democratic politician in Great Neck. Esagoff is now trying to raise taxes in Great Neck in order to build a new $21 million library that people in Great Neck can't afford and don't want.

    October 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. justworng1

    The tragedy here is the fact that a DA felt it was necessary to pursue test takers and cheaters, big deal, there are murders, rapist, child molesters, .0001% of college applicants get an unfair advantage, again, big deal. This activity is so small and truly insignificant in the big scheme of what is happening in the world and our country. Focus DA, there are real criminals at large and God Willing, you and yours won't run into such people who you aren't focusing on.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
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