Emory student accused of taking SAT for others

6:42 PM, Sep 28, 2011   |    comments
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Mugshot of Emory student Sam Eshaghoff

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- An Emory University student is facing charges he stood in for New York high school students and took the SAT for them.

Nassau County prosecutors say Sam Eshaghoff, 19, was paid between $1,500 and $2,500 for each exam, taken in 2010 and 2011.

Eshaghoff is a Great Neck North High School alumnus. He transferred to Emory after spending his freshman year at the University of Michigan.

Eshaghoff is charged with scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted on all charges. His attorney did not immediately return a call.

Six current or former Great Neck North students also were arrested Tuesday. The students are not being identified due to their ages and the nature of the crimes.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice says her office is investigating whether similar SAT scams occurred in at least two other high schools.

Rice said that early this year, 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 pupils 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, while Eshaghoff presented unofficial identification with his photo and the paying student's name on it.

On at least one occasion, Eshaghoff flew back home from college primarily to impersonate two students and took the SAT twice in one weekend.

Rice suggested better security might prevent such incidents in the future. Currently, students have to provide a photo ID to be admitted to the test. She suggests having students take a picture at the test site to be attached to their answer sheet, allowing their home high school to identify them.

However, the Educational Testing Services, which administers the test nationwide, believes their security standards are effective. Spokesman Tom Ewing says the last case like this was more than a decade ago.

"[That idea] seems like an over response to a situation that is very, very rare," Ewing said. "Our measures work, as evidenced by the fact that there are so few impersonations."

Four of the students are currently in college. Because of their age and the nature of their charges, the DA's office will not identify them, leaving the chance that their college may never find out about the alleged switch.

"The victims are their fellow students, the kids who don't cheat, the kids who take the SAT prep course, the kids who study, the kids who do their homework," Rice said. "The kids who play by the rules."

(The Associated Press & WNBC New York contributed to this story)

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