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7 students arrested in SAT cheating scheme

/ Source: msnbc.com

A college student flew home to New York to impersonate high schoolers who paid him to take the SAT on their behalf, and even took the exam twice in one weekend under different identities, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Between 2010 and 2011, six students at Long Island's Great Neck North High School paid Sam Eshaghoff, 19, between $1,500 and $2,500 each to take the SAT for them, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

All seven students involved were arrested for their alleged roles in the cheating scandal Tuesday morning. Eshaghoff faces up to four years in prison, NBCNewYork.com reported. The six who are charged with hiring him face misdemeanor charges; their names are not being made public due to their ages.

Eshaghoff graduated in 2010 from Great Neck North, a public school that ranks among the nation's best, according to FOX News, with notable alumni including filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Eshaghoff spent his freshman year at the University of Michigan, then transferred to Emory University in Atlanta sophomore year.

He flew back to Long Island on numerous weekends to take the SAT, where the high school students had registered at different schools so their faces wouldn't be recognized, prosecutors said. Eshaghoff presented a forged driver's license with his picture and the paying student's name each time he took the test, they said.

A perfect SAT score is 2400. Eshaghoff scored between 2140 and 2220 for the students, New York Daily News said.

At least once, Eshaghoff impersonated two students in one weekend, flying home from school to take the test twice, Rice said.

"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.

Eshaghoff also allegedly took the test for a seventh student, a girl, but did not make her pay, the Daily News reported.

Scores didn't match up with GPAs
High school faculty had become suspicious when they heard rumors of students paying a third party to take the SAT for them early this year, prosecutors said. They managed to nail down the six suspected high schoolers by comparing past academic performance to SAT scores of students who had taken the test at a different school.

The giveaway was "large discrepancies between [the six students'] academic performance records and their SAT scores," said Rice, reported FOX. She said administrators were able to track the tests to Eshaghoff after a handwriting analysis.

The district attorney's office said it is also investigating whether Eshaghoff took the exam for other students, and whether cheating has taken place at at least two other high schools in the county.

"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.

Eshaghoff's bond was set at $1,000. The other six were released on their own recognizance.

Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, said his client is not guilty. "He has cooperated with the investigation, and he denies the charges," Emouna said, according to FOX.

Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, was unable to provide documentation of cheating to prosecutors, citing a computer crash, according to NBC. If students are suspected of cheating, ETS's policy is not to notify colleges or high schools, but simply to cancel the score and offer a refund or a chance to take the test again for free, NBC reported.

Great Neck School District released a statement saying it "does not tolerate cheating" and remains "committed to cooperating with law enforcement in the matter."