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. Josie

    This is not a civil matter. The scores of these tests are often used for scholarship qualifications.

    Time for photo ID requirements just like college exams since so much money rides on these scores. And students should be required to get state ID cards if they do not have a drivers license.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dr. Rocky Termanini

    Hogwash…SAT is a traumatic experience for all knowledge seekers. Students fail because most of their teachers are totally stale and boring. Education is for everyone and there are other constructive ways to deal with plagiarists (I hate this word). Grades have never made heroes or guaranteed career success. I think SAT phobia drives student to commit crimes and self-destruct. Can the whole damn thing and open the universities for everyone. Oh, stop accepting foreign students because they have good grades. That’s very demoralizing to America. Shame on you.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Vermonster

    In the long run, it is about integrity and responsibility. Some might congratulate these kids for quick thinking. What will that get us? These people will cheat through college, cheat through whatever they need to to stay ahead. You have probably run into these people. And you wonder where all the jobs have gone that help drive our economy. Quick thinkers gave those jobs to other countries. Probably got them ahead when they needed it though.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. The Lord of Excess

    The SAT is a terrible racket just like LSAT, GMAT, GRE, MCAT, etc. its a big company with a monopoly that rakes in hundreds of millions each year. The standardized test gives very little tangible information about the kids who are taking the tests, SAT scores don't necessarily indicate anything about a students ability to succeed in college. We need a better system. ON the topic of cheating, its good that these kids are being held accountable and it sends a message to others who might follow in their footsteps. Again though ... standardized tests need to be completely tossed out and we need to start from scratch. In an age of technology, for the price these groups are charging and the untold millions they are making in profits, far better tests, fairer tests, that really measure what prospective students are capable of intellectually, emotionally and ethically ... can and should be devised. A good kid that is smart and ethical, should have preference over a very intelligent kid with no integrity. But measure that ... measure that ...

    September 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Barry G.

    Would anyone want to be treated by a physician, who cheated through college and medical school?

    Would anyone want anyone teaching their child, who cheated through college?

    Would anyone want to inhabit a building or home or fly on aircraft, which were designed by an engineer or an architect, who cheated?

    September 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • You're lving in denial

      @ Barry G. Likely you probably are working with someone who cheated at something. You are living in denial if you think that most people have morals. Most are out for themselves and will do whatever it takes to get there. Lie, cheat, steal, beg or borrow. Frankly, it's the american way.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ru kidding?

      No, of course not. However, guess is happening! People who take the high road and work hard to earn something are suckers to the vast majority who take the shortcuts and the paths of least resistance. I have 2 degrees. My boss and his boss have high school educations and their writing/planning skills are horrible. Yet, that is just the way it is. I went to college and they started working out of high school. College is a waste of time and money.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Neil B

    I specifically remember a Great Neck real estate agent bragging about Great Neck North SAT scores "much better than Great Neck South" when she was trying to sell us a house there 20 years ago!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    Rice said there was no evidence implicating the parents. So that means these kids pulled $2,500 out of their own pockets and Mumsy and Daddy never flaming noticed? OMG

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Variation on Affirmative Action

    This is just like affirmative action. Students getting 60% average (or less) are let into university, displacing worthy students getting the 80's who would normally be admitted. But in that case, their "cash" is their RACE. Just as bad, politicians and university deans should be going to jail too.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sahib

    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."

    This is why our colleges need to stop having entrances based on standarized test. Im not saying its 100% based but most of the chunk it is.. its a take or leave. This is the cause and the effect is people cheating, falling into depression, dropping out. Sat exams have become a business in our nation. We need to change the way colleges accept students for admissions in a well organized manner.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AKILEZ

    The kid is smart then. He must have a high IQ but the problem is that he made a business out of his brains. I know he knows that it was wrong but still did it

    September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Barry G.

    I'm starting to understand why the U.S. is no longer number one in mathematics and sciences, and why we're falling further and further behind the rest of the world.

    Maybe it's time to start taking this matter seriously.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Overhaul

    The entire US education system needs an overhaul. The college/universities rely on the SAT to admit students. Why not get their transcripts from high school to see how they do? Not everyone can take tests. I work at a university where teachers take courses to renew their licenses and/or change lanes (get a raise) and they cheat too! Don't blame this all on the kids, they have to have examples and probably some of it is pressure from their parents to do well and get into college. The higher the SAT score, the better the scholarships, grants, etc. Plus, you have to pay to take this test, so who are the real winners in this? The company administering the test, raking in all that money from these students.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Adam

    I'm glad I'm well past my high school and college years. Having said that – the SAT score only shows one thing: "How well students will do on the SAT." Beyond that the test is meaningless. It was back in my day, it's just as meaningless now. It doesn't measure intelligence, it doesn't accurate gauge how well you'll do in college, it doesn't reflect how we'll you'll do in real life after college.

    The SATs and all other standardized tests are just a scam to make money off of students and their parents. It also helps test prep companies profit. Hell look at the CFA certification tests. Costs you an arm and a leg to take each level, AND after you pass them all they still charge you annual fees for "membership." Standardized tests – the world's biggest pyramid scheme.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kd

    $1500-$2500 per test ? Do you really think the kids paid this? Mom and Dad should also be charged with fraud.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Arthur

    Another case of credentialism bringing out the worst in people. I bet at least one of these poor saps was going to major in something completely worthless to his/her career, too.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
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