Last Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview with accused Long Island SAT cheater Sam Eshaghoff showed how easy it was for him to run a successful SAT cheating business and how his plea deal may be derailed.
This former graduate of Great Neck North High school, and current 19-year-old Emory University sophomore, was arrested last September for allegedly taking SAT tests for students who paid him as much as $2,500 for a good score. One customer was so satisfied, he gave an $1,100 tip. High scores on the SAT college admission test can increase chances for admission and eligibility for financial aid based on merit.
Colleges are not informed when test results occur from SAT scams. Eshaghoff talked about what he did as life-saving, “As soon as I saved one kid’s life, a kid who has a horrible grade point average, who, no matter how much he studies is gonna totally bomb this test. By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him a new lease on life. He’s going to a totally new college, he’s going to be bound for a totally new career, a totally new path in life.”
As to how these results affect other honest, hard working students, he believed, “That one kid I helped to get into whatever school, he wasn’t really displacing anybody.”
While admitting he knew it was wrong, Eshaghoff also noted he created a thriving business with a good track record that generated referrals and a hefty cash flow. He recalled bidding wars for his expert service. He never asked his “clients” where they got the money to pay his high fees, although he speculated their parents may have been the source.
Success was easy to achieve:
- Create fake high school ID cards.
- Take the test where he was sure not to be recognized.
- Flash the ID card briefly.
- Don’t attract attention.
- Get good SAT scores.
- Let word get around.
It was the last item in his path to success that led to Eshaghoff’s downfall. High school officials found out and notified the proper authorities.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice described him as an “academic gun for hire” leading to a “huge fraud … lots of money changing hands, there were high stakes involved, and there was forgery; there was criminal impersonation.” Charges were also filed against students who did the hiring.
DA Rice called SAT cheating a “systemic problem” and “This is big business and it didn’t just start in 2011…This has been going on for years, decades, all across this country.
The New York State Senate Committee on Higher Education held a public hearing last October 25th to investigate SAT cheating and security. Suggestions presented for changes included different ID requirements and appropriate penalties for cheaters.
CBS posted a clip days before the 60 Minutes interview. According to a Newsday article published the day before the show aired, “Eshaghoff had made a plea deal in which he agreed to tutor underprivileged students instead of serving jail time…(DA) Rice is not likely to allow him to mentor students when ‘it’s clear he still doesn’t understand the importance of ethics or honesty.’”