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November 23rd, 2011
Eleven arrested in connection with alleged SAT cheating scam
Eleven current and former students of North Shore high schools on Long Island in New York were arrested Nov. 22 and face criminal charges for “choosing to scam the system” by cheating on college admission tests, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.
Two more suspects are expected to surrender Nov. 28, Rice spokesman John Byrne said.
The widening investigation found nine more students paid four test takers to impersonate them and take the SAT and ACT exams between 2008 and 2011. It brings the total number of students implicated in the cheating probe to 20, Rice said.
“It’s fair to say that this was so systematic that people knew who to go to when they needed a high score,” Rice said at a news conference in Mineola. “It was a business, and it was run like a business.”
The cheating scandal has rocked some parts of the affluent North Shore, where students attend some of the nation’s top-ranked high schools.
Rice identified the test takers as Joshua Chefec, 20, a graduate of Great Neck North; Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy High School; George Trane, 19, a graduate of Great Neck South High School; and Michael Pomerantz, 18, who attended Great Neck North.
Chefec, Justin, and Trane were led in handcuffs to their arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead, where they pleaded not guilty to charges of scheme to defraud, falsifying business records, and criminal impersonation. They were released without bail. Chefec attends Tulane University; Justin, Indiana University; and Trane, Stony Brook University.
Pomerantz is expected to surrender Nov. 28 because of a medical condition, the district attorney’s office said. The defendants face 4 years in prison, if convicted.
Eight other students, accused of paying others between $300 to $1,000 to take the tests, arrived at court Nov. 22, hiding their faces under hats, hoods, and scarves, and were arraigned on misdemeanor charges. Those students include five alumni of Great Neck North, one who attended North Shore Hebrew Academy, one who graduated from Roslyn High School, and one from Great Neck South. A ninth student, who attends St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, declined to surrender and officials said they plan to arrest that person.
The students charged with misdemeanors will be prosecuted as youthful offenders, their cases will be sealed, and they will not be identified, officials said.
In September, six former and current Great Neck North students were arrested after prosecutors said they paid a former student to pose as them and take the SAT. Prosecutors said one student arrested Nov. 22 paid Sam Eshaghoff, 19, the former student, $3,600. The probe has since expanded, and Rice said her office has looked at as many as 40 possible cheaters, but can charge only a fraction of them because of issues involving evidence and the statute of limitations.
There is no evidence that the students’ parents provided the money to hire the test takers, but the investigation is continuing, Rice said.