Seven people were arrested on Tuesday for participating in an SAT cheating ring out of Great Neck, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
The arrested are current or former Great Neck North High School students who are accused of paying college student Sam Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, between $1,500 and $2,500 each to impersonate them and take the SAT test to achieve higher scores.
Rice said that Eshaghoff, who attended the University of Michigan during his freshman year, but is now enrolled at Emory University, was retained to impersonate students and take the SAT for them. Investigators arrested Eshaghoff Tuesday morning. He is charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree, falsifying business records in the second degree and criminal impersonation in the second degree. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.
The six students who hired Eshaghoff were charged with misdemeanors, and because of their ages, are not identified. The students and Eshaghoff were arraigned Tuesday in First District Court in Hempstead.
Bail was set for Eshagoff at $1,000 bond or $500 cash. He is due back in court on Oct. 11. The six students were released on their own recognizance.
According to Rice, in early 2011, faculty members at Great Neck North High School heard rumors that an individual was paid by students to take the SAT in their place. After reviewing records of students who had taken the test at other schools, school officials focused on students with large variation between their SAT scores and their academic records.
To minimize the risk of discovery by proctors, the students registered to take the test at locations outside Great Neck. Investigators identified Eshaghoff, who presented false identification containing the student’s name, but with Eshaghoff’s picture.
The DA’s office is currently investigating whether at least two other Nassau County high schools had similar SAT scams occur, and whether Eshaghoff took the SAT test for students of other high schools.
The non-profit organization that conducts the test, Education Testing Service, informed prosecutors that it conducted its own investigation, but was unable to provide investigators documentation due to a computer crash. ETS generally cancels the scores and offers students suspected of cheating options of a refund, a free retest, or arbitration. Colleges and high schools are generally not notified by ETS when cheating is suspected.
“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.
“These arrests should serve as a warning to those taking the SAT this Saturday that if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences,” she stated. “I want to thank the Great Neck School District for their invaluable assistance with this investigation.”
Matin Emouna, who is representing Eshagoff, did not return a call for comment.