GREAT NECK, NY (PIX11)—The investigation into cheating on the SAT college entrance exams, which started with seven arrests in Great Neck North High School, has spread to at least two other school districts in Nassau County, Long Island.
District Attorney, Kathleen Rice, told PIX 11 Wednesday, "Now, it's in a total of three different school districts and one private school." More arrests are expected, and Rice remarked, "The likelihood is it's across the state and even the country."
Last month, police arrested seven former and current students from Great Neck North, including 19-year-old Samuel Eshaghoff--accused of taking the SAT exam for six students, earning up to $2500 each time he sat down to "ace" a test. In one case, he took the exam for a female student, who had a name that could belong to either gender. Eshaghoff's highest mark was a 2220 out of a possible 2400--way higher than the national average of 1509. Eshaghoff scored in the top 5 percent of test-takers nationally. "By cheating, what these kids did was take away college seats from honest kids," Rice told PIX 11.
Eshaghoff's defense lawyer, Matin Emouna, is working with private investigator Les Levine, to prove kids around the country are using "test takers" to make the grade for college--but not getting criminally busted for it. "This is a nationwide epidemic," the attorney told us. "The e-mails are coming from the West Coast: California, Texas, Oregon, and on Wednesday, we got one from Wyoming." Levine added, 'The problem is much more widespread than anyone originally thought. Certainly, it's not limited to New York."
Outside Great Neck North on Wednesday, PIX 11 spoke to high school senior Gabby Twersky, about the growing scandal. "It's probably happening in a lot of schools. Kids feel pressure to get into schools," Twersky told PIX. When I asked if parents were putting the pressure on teens, Twersky responded, "No." When we asked where the money was coming from, she said, "This is a very rich town, if you haven't noticed."
A male student, who didn't want to be identified, said, "They want to get into college. They don't want to study." Behind him, a group of other boys yelled, "We're not cheaters!" Another female student, a senior, said about the burgeoning scandal, "I think it's good it's not only on us anymore."
Eshaghoff's defense lawyer told us his young client is still registered at Emory University in Atlanta. "He's still a student with a bright future," Emouna remarked. But Eshaghoff is facing up to four years in prison, if convicted on fraud and criminal impersonation charges.
Yet while the defense team argues the cheating does not rise to the level of a criminal matter, the District Attorney begs to disagree. "What we're looking at are future corrupt politicians, CEO's, accountants, and lawyers of the future," Rice observed, saying the problem needs to be -nipped in the bud. She said ETS, the non-profit agency that administers the SAT exams around the country, needs to change its security measures. She recommends every test-taker be photographed, in the future. "That photo can be attached to the test results," Rice said, "and sent to colleges, sent to high schools." Before that happens, more students will likely be posing for mug shots, as the investigation intensifies.