NY prosecutor: Probe of SAT scandal will proceed

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — A prosecutor in New York is investigating whether students in other school districts on Long Island took part in a cheating scam involving college entrance exams.

Seven current or former students at Great Neck North High School were arrested Tuesday on allegations that one of the seven — a 19-year-old college student — took the SAT exams for the others in exchange for payments of up to $2,500. In one of the cases, Sam Eshaghoff is accused of taking the SAT for a female student, although in that case he did it free of charge, Nassau County prosecutors said.

Eshaghoff provided fake IDs when he sat in for his classmates on the college entrance exams between 2009 and earlier this year, prosecutors said. It is not clear how Eshaghoff managed to get past security while taking the test for the girl. Because the six classmates who allegedly "contracted" with Eschaghoff were not identified by prosecutors because they are minors, it is not known if the girl had an unusual name that could have been mistaken for a boy’s.

Eshaghoff has pleaded not guilty to charges of scheming to defraud, criminal impersonation and falsifying business records. The Emory University student, who also attended the University of Michigan, posted $500 bail and was released. His six current or former classmates were released without bail after being charged with misdemeanors, prosecutors said.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said her office is investigating whether similar SAT scams occurred in at least two other area high schools. Prosecutors also are investigating whether Eshaghoff took the SAT exam for others.

The six, some of whom are currently in college, apparently got their money’s worth: prosecutors say Eshaghoff scored between 2140 and 2220 on the tests, which are used by college administrators in determining who gets into school. The top score on an SAT is 2400.

Tom Ewing, a spokesman for ETS, which administers the test for The College Board, said strict security guidelines are in place to prevent cheating. He said students must present an admission ticket and photo ID, which can include a state-issued driver’s license; state-issued non-driver ID; a school identification card; a passport or other government-issued document.

In the Great Neck case, the students registered to take the tests at a school outside their local district so they would not be recognized. Eshaghoff then went to the schools and showed a photo ID with his picture, but another student’s name on it, Rice said. At least once, Eshaghoff flew home from college primarily to impersonate two students and took the SAT twice in one weekend.

Ewing noted that because instances like the one in Great Neck are rare, there is no need to review security measures ahead of this weekend’s exam, the largest of the year with over 700,000 students already signed up.

"We can’t allow the actions of a few to dictate unnecessary measures for the majority of honest test takers," he said.

Earlier this year, Great Neck North faculty members heard rumors that students had paid a third party to take the SAT for them, Rice said. Administrators then identified six students who "had large discrepancies between their academic performance records and their SAT scores," the prosecutor said.

The school is rated as one of the nation’s top academic high schools. Alumni include David Baltimore, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist; filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola; and Olympic figure skating champion Sarah Hughes.

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