Seven New York teenagers were arrested for participating in an SAT cheating ring that paid a college student thousands of dollars to impersonate high school students and take the college entrance exam for them, authorities said on Tuesday.
Six students at Long Island's prestigious Great Neck North High School have been accused of paying Sam Eshaghoff, a 19-year-old student at Emory University who is a Great Neck native, between $1,500 and $2,000 a pop to take the SAT for them so they could get a higher score. Eshaghoff is a 2010 Great Neck North graduate.
Eshaghoff was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree falsifying business records and second-degree criminal impersonation, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. He faces up to four years in prison if he is convicted on those charges.
Accused to Plead Not Guilty
Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, told The Associated Press that his client will plead not guilty to the charges and expects he will be released without bail.
He has cooperated with the investigation, and he denies the charges, Emouna said.
The six students who reportedly hired Eshaghoff -- all of whom have not been identified because of their ages -- were also arrested on Tuesday morning and face misdemeanor charges.
Prosecutors said that earlier this year, Great Neck North faculty members heard rumors that students had paid a third party to take the SAT for them. Administrators then combed the records of students who had taken the test at another school and compared discrepancies with their academic performance to their SAT scores to identify students who may have cheated.
The students in question managed to get away with their deed by registering to take the exam at a different school where they would not be recognized. Eshaghoff then went to the schools and used an unofficial photo ID with his picture, but another student's name on it, prosecutors said.
Eshaghoff allegedly flew to New York from his college -- located in Georgia -- to take the test for two students and once took the SAT twice in one weekend. He reportedly used his earnings to pay for a gym membership and other expenses.
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.
Possible Additional SAT Fraud
Rice said her office is also investigating whether similar cases of SAT fraud occurred in at least two other high schools in Nassau County, N.Y. Prosecutors are also investigating whether Eshaghoff took the test for additional students.
The College Board sponsors and owns the SATs, but contracts with Educational Testing Services, which designs and administers the test. Tom Ewing, a spokesman for ETS, said in a statement that both The College Board and ETS commend the District Attorney's office in their handling of the situation.
We also appreciate the efforts of school officials at Great Neck High School North to expose test taking irregularities in order to ensure that all students are afforded a level playing field on which to perform, he said.
In a statement, Great Neck North High School said it is cooperating with law enforcement and does not tolerate cheating.
Great Neck North High administrators have been aware of the suspected SAT cheating ring for some time. In May, the New York Post reported that the district was investigating rumors of a SAT cheating ring among seniors at the high school, which is one of the top-ranked in the nation.
Everyone knows about it, said a female senior told the newspaper at the time. You get the feeling that it's widespread, and not just here in Great Neck.