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. mormon

    This has been going on forever. At larger colleges kids are always paying others to take test or even attend classes for an entire semester for them. Who cares?

    September 28, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • danny

      You might be able to cheat on your college boards, but you won't be able to afford the tuition.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • rose

      I disagree with you. This is a system of lying and cheating. People are not really getting an education and learning something. IN the end it hurts innocent people. I hope someday you have a parent who gets the wrong measure of medicine because the nurse "Faked" her way through school and tests.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sammy

      Dan more than likely these kids are upper class kids. If they can afford the top dollars for someone to take a test for them than more than likely their parents can afford for them to get into those top schools.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Andreas Moser

    That's a good business idea. I am available!

    September 28, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. mormon

    It was rumoured all during the early 70s that this is how some of the Kennedy kids got their law degrees. I just dont really see much wrong with it myself. In the real world, as long as the work gets done, it doesnt matter how as long as noone is hurt.

    September 28, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • waheid

      The persons who are hurt are the persons who have honestly won a good score, but not as good as a professional test taker. The honest students thereby appear to be less qualified than the person who had the professional take the test for them.

      Believe it or not: some people in our society still value honesty.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      Hey MR MORMON..............Don't you think that we knew what the KENNEDY KIDS looked like? It would have been next to IMPOSSIBLE for them to hire a body double, with a brain to cheat for them..... don't you think?

      September 28, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      The Kennedy's wouldn't need good SAT scores to get into school....just like Bush getting into Yale as a coke addict with a C+ average, if daddy went there, you get in anyway

      September 28, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. james

    The whole SAT thing in the States is a sham anyways. Disproven time and again besides being pointless and unfair. Nobody else puts kids through a hocus pocus test to see if they are 'inteligent' enough to go tino practically any college. I mean what a way to discourage someone. 'Sorry Jimmy you got a 98, you'll be farming manure for the rest of your life.'

    September 28, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      If you get a 98 on your SAT, you deserve to shovel manure the rest of your life.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      If you scored a 98, I'd be surprised to find you not eating that manure you're supposed to be shoveling...

      September 28, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. justathought

    "They been doing this for years, so who cares"? Smart enough to cheat on a SAT test, but not smart enough to stay out of trouble. So why do we have cheaters and liers in public office? They learn it in in high school and colloge. So when the real test comes they are not ready. Could this be any indication why the world is in such a mess today?

    September 28, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Leprakawn

      ...Hopefully they learned how to spell "college" correctly though.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Anita P

      And liars too...

      September 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KcCritic

    @ Andreas Moore: If you're implying noone was hurt, what about tbe kids that were not admitted to the college because they didn't fare as well as the kid who paid to have someone else take and pass the test for them?? It's mind boggling why such a smart kid does such stupid things, such as this. The kids that were paying $1500 to $2500 to have this kid take the test for them? Apparently they come from wealthy families and have already been taught they don't have to work to get what they want in life, just pay for it.... None of characters in this play will get very far in life.....You want slmething in life, do it the old fashioned way- work for it, earn it! You don't appreciate things when they are handed to you. When you work for something, the feeling of that accomplishment is a great feeling.

    September 28, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      While cheating was wrong, let's not overstate the damage....students that got bumped for these cheaters weren't the top of the list anyway....they were borderline failures that wouldn't have stayed in school for much longer than the first semester....we didn't lose any budding rocket scientists

      September 28, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    Let them go.

    These guys are just doing what they've learned from American businesses.

    Honesty gets you nowhere on Wall Street.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jack

    God bless free enterprise! Some kids are coming out of college with 50-60 thousand in debt they have to pay off. This guy will come out of college with a profit and since he is probably a full time student to boot he won't owe any taxes on it.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • jay in florida

      Wrong... the illegal money can be seized from him, leaving him with a net zero. Then there's the small issue of the possibility of four years in the hokey pokey... where he will probably graduate in opening padlocks and jumping fences, with a specialty in not dropping the soap while taking a shower. By the time he comes out, he will be able to open your car in less than 30 seconds. Yeah, that's a bright future.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    [sarcasm] of course, it's Obama's fault. [/sarcasm]
    Thought I'd beat people to the punch.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron G

      Yeah, you knew it was coming!

      September 28, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. petesamson

    I knew those Northerners cheated on their SATs. who knows how many others did this. This one guy did it six times before he got caught. Holly crap. Once or twice okay, but six times?

    September 28, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Anita P

      He probably did it more than 6 times before he was caught.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nitrous

    The kid's got a future on Wall Street.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. jay in florida

    And this is news how? I personally know someone who paid other people to attend GRADUATE school for him, and he received a Masters of Science with Honors in Management Information Systems.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • rose

      This is probably why our computer systems don't work well where I work!!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nitrous

    Better yet – he is the future of America.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jj

    its a dam shame that this is accepted as the norm. dumbed down america! congrats

    September 28, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tomas P.

    I have a simple question. Why is this a criminal act? If true, I agree it warrants academic punishment (expulsion, suspension with test retake, etc.), but this is a private test taken for academic reasons. The test is not even mandatory for all colleges nor is it a government mandate to take.

    It points to a society with an over emphasis to criminalize the most trivial of acts, increasing our criminal population, increasing societies cost to care for the “new” criminals, and reducing the potential of these individuals in years to come. Personally, while not agreeing with the act, I strongly disagree it is criminal in nature. You should not criminalize stupidity.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • waheid

      It's a crime because the people involved in this stole someone the future from others who were either honest enough not to participate or whose parents were not rich enough to pay the fee.

      Those directly involved in this and those who defend them are demonstrating just how low the morals and ethics of this country have sunk. Just because our politicans are crooked and our lawyers are congenital liars is no reason to follow them down the rat hole. I'd like to think that most of us are better than that, although it's hard to find otherwise here.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Tomas P.

      Waheid, I agree with all your points, and if the allegations are true, do agree there should be punishment. I just don't think it is right to make this criminal punishment. For example, many a manager has unjustly squashed the dreams a aspirations of many a worker. With the direct results you list here. Should we criminalize bad managers? All punishment is not legal in nature. I feel this is a overreach and there are better ways to deal with this type of behavior. As bad as it is.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Anita P

      I believe it's a felony due to the amount of money that exchanged hands and fraud is the only thing the feds could come up with to charge him with. If he had done it for free, he may also be free himself right now. IMHO

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