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. BBell

    $1500 to $2500 per student and the kids' parents didn't know? Hey mom, I need 2K for back to school shopping! It is one thing to slap a minor's hand for pulling something like this, but an entirely different matter to overlook possible parent involvement. I hope they follow that paper trail closely.

    September 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ralphhaney

    Using the SAT to judge who the best potential students are? Not in California.

    And wasn't it just a month or two ago where we were told to feel compassion for the illegal immigrant using false I.D. to go to college. Didn't see any charges filed there.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sh

    Cheating is definitely a bad thing here but 4 years in prison is a little harsh... That's tax payer money spent well. The one getting paid actually took initiative to make an easy dollar from some kids that probably came from money and didn't feel like working for it. He probably came from little money and figured, why not take these rich kids money?

    September 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Aaron

    Maybe that poor kid can get some help for his acne now.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • milehigh303

      LOL, exactly!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Cheech

      And that lazy eye.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. george

    Heres another one you can blame on our government/////////////////

    September 29, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • tennessee

      Huh? I'm sure this must be all Obama's fault. I'm just not quite sure how.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tid Bit

    There is more than one issue here. Yes, the students have some life lessons to learn, as do their parents. If my child is an average student and then does incredibly well on his/her SATs, I have some questions for my child.
    I believe that SATs tests essentially predict how well a student will do on an SAT test. I suspect SAT have outlived their usefulness. There are much better indicators. Yes, I have already graduated from college and a few years from retirement.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. jimmer

    Seven arrests??????????? Wall street should be so lucky.......

    September 29, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. larry5

    These kids are just learning to be politicians. If you want something just pay for it.

    September 29, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gaadffly

    Just goes to show the difference between STAR testing and SAT testing. Many students make no effort on the STAR because it doesn't have any effect on grades, graduation or University admittance. On the other hand,, they will do anything including cheating when it concerns graduating or college entrance.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. GF

    Is anybody thinking about the parents of those students that paid between $1500 and $2500 for the cheating? They do not share any responsibility? 16-year-old students have that kind of money in their pockets?

    September 29, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    Samuel Eshaghoff could get a job at a prestigious law firm. And then sell his story to the USA network.

    September 29, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Siobahn

      He really needs to be a politician, don't you think?

      September 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Josh

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

    Probably the only sane person in that group.

    September 29, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. cali

    While this kind of cheating "has been going on for a while" it doesn't mean that it's okay. It hurts others. The concept of including photos with test results has a lot of flaws. While it would aide schools to fulfill their Diversity requirement, it would also open the colleges up for discrimination cases based on the photo from the test. When you're a teenager on a Saturday, waking up early to take a test that will determine the course of your life is stressful enough without having to worry over a picture taken at the time of the test.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. milehigh303

    DUMB rich kids!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. JFWilder

    Oh, they're going to love fresh meat like this in prison.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeanette

      Now now actually think even one of them is going to ever see the inside of a prison??

      September 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
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