Seven people have been arrested, all current or former Great Neck North High School students, for their roles in a cheating ring that paid a college student thousands of dollars to impersonate students and take the SAT for them, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced.
Rice said that between 2010 and 2011, six students at Great Neck North High School paid Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, to take the SAT for them so they would achieve a higher score. Eshaghoff, now a student at Emory University who completed his freshman year at the University of Michigan and a 2010 Great Neck North graduate, accepted payments of between $1,500 and $2,500 per student.
Eshaghoff was arrested during the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 27 by DA Investigators and is charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, six counts of Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree, and six counts of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
The six students who hired Eshaghoff, all from Great Neck, were also arrested that morning by DA Investigators and face misdemeanor charges. They are not being identified due to their ages and the nature of the charges. Eshaghoff and the six students were being arraigned later in theday in First District Court, Hempstead.
Rice said that in early 2011, Great Neck North High School faculty members heard rumors that students had paid a third party to take the SAT for them. Administrators at the top-ranked high school identified the six students by reviewing records of students who had taken the test at a different school and had large discrepancies between their academic performance records and their SAT scores.
The students registered to take the test at a different school where their faces would not be known to the proctors, and the third party, identified by investigators as Eshaghoff, presented unofficial identification with his photo and the paying student’s name on it. He also took the test at no charge for a female student.
On at least one occasion, Eshaghoff flew back home from college primarily to impersonate two students and took the SAT twice in one weekend.
The DA’s Office is currently investigating whether similar SAT scams have occurred in at least two other Nassau County high schools, as well as allegations that Eshaghoff took the SAT exam for students of other high schools.
Educational Testing Service (ETS), the non-profit organization that administers the test, told prosecutors that it conducted its own investigation of the matter, but was unable to provide some investigation documentation to prosecutors citing a computer crash. ETS does not notify colleges or high schools when students are suspected of cheating, but instead cancels their scores and offers suspected cheaters a refund, a free re-test, or the opportunity to arbitrate.
“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. “These arrests should serve as a warning to those taking the SAT this Saturday that if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences. I want to thank the Great Neck School District for their invaluable assistance with this investigation.”
“The Great Neck School District has been cooperating with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office regarding an incident of reported cheating on the SAT,” said Superintendent Tom Dolan, in a statement.
“Needless to say, the Great Neck School District does not tolerate cheating and we remain committed to cooperating with law enforcement in this matter. It is our hope that the actions currently being taken by the District Attorney’s Office will serve to bring and end to any dishonest practices which may have placed students at an unfair disadvantage and will also bring to light any shortcomings in the security of the SAT testing system,” Dolan said.
Chief Diane Peress and Assistant District Attorney Kristofer Kasnicki of the Economic Crimes Bureau are prosecuting the cases for the DA’s Office. Eshaghoff is represented by Matin Emouna, Esq., Student 1 is represented by Luigi Gigliotti, Esq., Student 2 is represented by Robert Gallo, Esq., Student 3 is represented by David Korson, Esq., Student 4 is represented by Kevin Keating, Esq., Student 5 is represented by Christopher Gomoka, Esq., and Student 6 is represented by Richard Hendler, Esq.
The DA’s office reminded that the charges are only allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.