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. SMS

    For $1500-$2500, I'm curious to know what scores he was able to pull for the six students. I had this exact idea years ago. I'm sure it happens more than this isolated case.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marucs

    Where was CNN when the Atlanta school districts' teachers were doing the cheating? Oh! It is a white teen and not a group of black teachers. That is the difference.

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

      You're right. Keep telling the truth, and never let the pc hall monitors silence you.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazyamor

      What are you talking about? This story? http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/07/06/lavandera.atlanta.schools.scandal.cnn?iref=allsearch

      September 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Hey Marcus, I got a crowbar you can use to remove your foot from your mouth...

      September 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      but I can't offer much help with removing your head from your backside

      September 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jellylee2020

      Republicans chose to see what they want to see instead of the truth. Thank pazyamor for pointing out the obvious ignorance and prejudice displayed above.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      @Marcus – CNN did have a story on the Atlanta school district and their cheating teachers. Please don't be so fast to scream racism. Do a little research first. BTW, blacks are not at the root of all your problems. It's time for you to take responsiblility for your own actions or lack there of.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      Owned

      September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Punkass

      Jelly, who says he is a republican? you just made that assumption because you are biased against conservatives. Are you trying to prove that liberals are not tolerant of others that have a different POV?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Here are the links to the Atlantis cheating scandal:
      http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/12/georgia.atlanta.schools.cheating/index.html
      http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/07/georgia.schools.cheating/index.html
      http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-20/us/georgia.atlanta.schools.cheating_1_cheating-scandal-keith-bromery?_s=PM:US

      September 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dee

    Someone should send this story to the "bake sale" boys and girls at UC-Berkeley and anyone who wonders why there is such a thing as affirmative action when it comes to college admissions.

    How many "qualified" Beckys and Bobbys are in these schools now because they could pay someone to take the admissions test for them? And just WHERE would a high school kid get a couple thousand dollars to pay someone to take a test for them anyway? "Honest Abe" Mom and Dad, maybe?

    And the hyprocrisy of some of the posters on this site is astounding, but indicative of the double standard that exists in this nation - would you cry "leave the kid alone" if he were, say Asian or Middle Eastern?

    September 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Punkass

      Just because some white kids cheated on a test doesnt mean that minority students should be allowed to pay less or have their race give them an upper hand over white students. The Berkeley bake sale was appropriate in pointing out racism and discrimination. Your race or ethnicity should NOT factor in the decision to accept a student.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ds123

      Yes, that's it. The only reason White people fill our college ranks is because they are rich enough to hire people to take the SAT for them.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I hope you realize that those that cheated on the SAT test will fail in college anyways? Do you think they can even keep up in the college classes if they can't keep up in high school?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mukazzi

      @(lacking common sense or any integrity to the )truth: who said anything about race? If I were to exercise my 'wise crack' comeback, I would say that you personally make the other 11 months cringe in embarassment. Now, back to the issue at hand: 1) how OLD was he when the first financial transaction occurred? If he was 18 -we're looking at jail time. 2) The other 6 students? Unfortunately, they are going to be punished as well. Just WHERE did these HIGH SCHOOL students pick up $1500-2500 without a parent noticing (this speaks a great deal to the parents; are they about to let their offspring 'roll on' to jail? How are they even going to come CLOSE to defend these behaviors without exposing themselves?). 3) Eshaghoff MUST be kicked out of school -this is as bad as plagerism.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      @Mukazzi the implied "Becky and Bobby" comment gave away the fact that the person typing that is black, because that is how they use subtle racism and make it look or sound OK maybe if you took the rag off your head you'd see the light

      September 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sammy

      This is the white version of affirmative action. Oh secondly don't you use the name tyrone or lashonda when referring to blacks. Take the snot out of your nose.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Eric Cartmenez

    How do I reach these kids...

    September 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      South Park reference win.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      LOL

      September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Starstuff

    The whole SAT / GRE what ever tests are a joke anyway. Anyone with good memory or EXPENSIVE tutoring can get good results.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Huuked on fonix werked fer me!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      so can anyone that pays attention in school....

      September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saboth

      Er...that's pretty much true of any test.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. paulm5545

    "Rice said authorities have no evidence implicating parents in the cheating scandal." I wonder where a HS student gets $1500-2500 to pay someone to take a test for them.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Les

    The SATs are a racket. No way is the company that administers them "non-profit". To have to pay for this test is just plain wrong and it should never be used to determine who gets in college. College admittance should be based first come-first served. If the student fails then they are booted from college. It's that simple.

    Many of our finest minds (e.g. Einstein who failed math before he went to college) would never have been had SAT scores been used to determine who gets an education and who does not. SAT scores are elitist and no provision is made for those that cannot afford to take them. They are a scam.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      SATs do more more and no less than indicate what an individual KNOWS....it is a standardized test that eliminates confounding variables such as socioeconomic status and race....it is not much more complex than 2+2=? and the students who answer 4 go to college while the morons that answer 3 don't....it's just a matter of answering objective questions correctly...

      September 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JHL

      @les: very few of our finest minds would not have done well on standardized tests such as the SATs or ACTs.

      BTW, if an applicant can't afford to take the SATs, where is he/she going to come up wiith money for college?

      College on a first come, first served basis? Really? You think that's a good way to create a well-educated population? Earth to Les, Earth to Les, Come in Les.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les

      @JHL

      There were plenty of people that recieved a good education before the SAT fiasco became de rigor and it's demise would not change a single thing. So far as paying for the test, if such a test is "required" to enter college then the schools themselves should provide for those tests. There is no reason to charge the fees that now exist except that it makes a healthy bit of pocket change for a non-profit org that holds a monopoly over the SATs.

      Being able to afford the test (which is ridiculously high priced in its own right) as being indicative of ability to pay for college is ludicrous. Almost every college student provides their tuition through grants, loans, and/or scholarships except for those with rich daddies.

      First come, first serve is infinitely more fair than the current system which encourages elitism in all its ugly faces. Frankly, anyone who wants to go to college should be allowed to go. Period. Not enough spaces? Hire more professors, have them actually teach all day, every day of the week and expand housing options. It's that simple.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bucsfanFL

    It's been a long time since I took the SAT, but a perfect score back in the 80's was 1600. They should not even ask for ethnicity on these tests, because that is exactly what they use it for, to segregate scores. As for a certain group of people that test lower than others, I'm pretty sure these people are taking classes, have libraries, and even free internet access at school. If you are motivated to learn, you will. If you want to sit back and wait for someone to give you hand-outs, well, we've become pretty good at that too.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jut

    Simple reason why this has become a criminal case... it involves money... the DA/government wouldn't care except this kid got money and they didn't get their piece... Bull****

    September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rose

    In a recent Reader's Digest there was an article about people who make their living taking tests, doing on line college classes and writing doctoral theses for high paying customers. This has been going on for a long time!!! The areas of study include medicine, nursing, law, theology, psychology, education, ..... the list goes on.... . No wonder we have people in these areas of expertise who don't know what they are doing!!!! Imagine the harm they have done.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vic

    This is how a lot of white kids get into college and pass tests in high school. They cheat! Just proves they aren't smarter than some Asian, Hispanic, or Black kids; just richer!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Vic,

      Your jumping to some crazy conclusions. Flip the response to something like this...This black/hispanic/jewish/muslim kid cheated, therefore all blacks/hispanics/jews/muslims cheat. Sound at all racist? I think all kdis are tempted to cheat. Regardless. The SATs are a farce and the ETS is far from a non-profit organization. Abolish the tests

      September 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Elle

    I was in the top one percent on my SATs in high school, and I recall feeling very smug about it, knowing that kids ("grinds") who studied harder, were more responsible, and frankly, better people than I was, endured disappointment. This this one day of testing could nullify all of their hard classroom work when it came to competing with a lazy snot who was good at taking tests - as I was.

    In the subsequent decades I've learned a few things, and I believe that SATs are elitist instruments that should have small if any influence on one's chance of college admission. A student who had to work long hours after school; who froze up out of anxiety, or who just wasn't good at taking timed tests could lose the value of his/her hard work of years in class. Or could be tempted to cheat and ruin an otherwise good record.

    Staking a child's future on a few hours' performance on a test, compared to the actual class work of years is patently unfair. I say abolish the SATs, look at grades (investigate grade inflation if need be), and use standardized testing only to measure areas where kids need help - and then provide that support via tutoring, online drilling and so forth. Too many broken hearts here and temptations to cheat because of the inordinately high influence of the SAT score. That testing service is a private company who doesn't really care about a child's personal goals one whit. It's a money-making tradition for the ETS and has done more harm than good to kids through the years, I am sure now.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JHL

      There's an explicit fallacy in Elle's observation that there are a lot of people who work hard, study hard, and get good grades yet don't do well on standardized tests. That's nonsense as folks who get good grades will have had to do well on tests throughout school.

      Also the throw-away line "investigate grade inflation if need be" opens up a Pandoras Box. How and who does @Elle expect to normalize grading throughout the US or a world-wide for foreign applicants. Who's oing to pay for that? Standardized tests may be imperfect, but @Elle offers nothing. On the other hand @Elle's post does support the hypothesis that there isn't a correlation between intelligence and common sense.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. The Pope

    And those are just the ones that got caught

    September 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Polecat1

    So what's the big deal? Deserving students are displaced by minority students daily via admission quotas and athletic scholarships. These students are not deserving either. The whole process of admissions stinks and is often not based on ability.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patricksday

    Well if your parents are corrupt why wouldnt their children, who is paying this high price for someone else to take the Test? I'am sured it doesnt end with the SAT's either. Ah an America that has turned to GREED, CORRUPTION and lack of HONOR.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
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