Sept. 27, 2011 — -- An alleged SAT cheating ring has been busted in Long Island, N.Y., resulting in the arrest of seven students.
At least six high school students allegedly paid 19-year-old college student Sam Eshaghoff thousands of dollars to take the test for them, prosecutors said.
Over the past year, six students from Great Neck North High School in Mineola paid Eshaghoff between $1,500 and $2,500 to take the test on their behalf, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
"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."
Eshaghoff graduated in 2010 from the same high school that the students attend. He spent his freshman year at the University of Michigan before transferring to Emory University where he is currently a student.
On at least one occasion, Eshaghoff allegedly flew home from school just to take the test twice in the same weekend, according to prosecutors. The students would register for Eshaghoff to take the test in different schools in the district where they would not have been recognized by name, prosecutors said.
Students are required to present test officials with photo identification and an admission ticket. Prosecutors said that Eshaghoff would present a fake ID with the student's name that he was impersonating and his own picture on the card.
In one instance, prosecutors said, he took the test for a female student at no charge, but it is unclear how he was able to pass for her in order to get into the exam.
Eshaghoff's attorney Matin Emouna did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but told The Associated Press that his client would plead not guilty.
"He has cooperated with the investigation, and he denies the charges," Emouna said.
Early this year, faculty members from the high school heard rumors that students had paid someone to take the test for them. An investigation led to the identification of six students who had taken the test at different schools where they would not be identified and whose test scores seemed out of line with their grades in school.
The Educational Testing Service is the company that designs and administers the SAT and is responsible for test security. Its spokesman Tom Ewing said the company takes cheating allegations very seriously and investigations include visits to the schools involved, examinations of documentation and sometimes even handwriting analysis.
"The SAT scores that are generated are used to make important college admission decisions and if we can't stand behind their validity, we will not report them for use," Ewing said.
The Educational Testing Service received a call from the school's principal that initiated the investigation, according to Ewing.
All seven students were arrested this morning. Eshaghoff is facing charges for scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison. The other six students are facing misdemeanor charges and have not been identified because of their ages.
Great Neck North High School is one of the highest-ranked public high schools in the country with notable alumni including film director Francis Ford Coppola, fashion designer Kenneth Cole and Olympic figure skater Sarah Hughes.
"The Great Neck School District does not tolerate cheating and we remain committed to cooperating with law enforcement in this matter," school district officials said in a statement. "It is our hope that the actions currently being taken by the District Attorney's Office will serve to bring an 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."
All seven were scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in Long Island.