Lawyer: SAT cheating probe widens

A file photo of a test-taker. A file photo of a test-taker. Photo Credit: Alan Raia, 2006

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The Nassau district attorney's investigation into cheating on college admissions tests has led to the discovery of at least one alleged case in Queens, a lawyer for the two suspects in that case said Monday.

Matin Emouna, the Mineola lawyer for accused SAT test-taker Sam Eshaghoff, said he now represents two people suspected of cheating in Queens, one of whom allegedly took the test for the other, he said.

Emouna said his clients, whom he would not identify, have not yet been interviewed by prosecutors but added that they "intend to cooperate fully" with the investigation.

Emouna confirmed the widening investigation on the eve of a second round of arrests in the nationally publicized cheating scandal. Sources close to the investigation have said that as many as 13 people -- four people suspected of accepting money to take the tests, and nine people suspected of paying others to take the tests -- have been asked to turn themselves in Monday morning.

Prosecutors in September arrested Eshaghoff and six other current and former students from Great Neck North High School, charging they are part of a cheating ring. Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree scheme to defraud, six counts of second-degree falsifying business records and six counts of second-degree criminal impersonation. If convicted, he faces up to 4 years in prison.

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice also has convened a special grand jury to investigate cheating on the tests, sources close to the probe confirmed. That probe could result in criminal indictments, a report or recommendations on the panel's findings, sources and experts said.

Rice has scheduled a noon news conference Tuesday on the SAT and ACT investigation, her office confirmed.

Emouna said the fact that the investigation has spilled over into Queens shows how widespread cheating on the SAT and ACT is. He said his clients attend a private school in Queens and that the test in that case allegedly was taken in Queens.

"This just demonstrates that cheating on these tests is not unique to Nassau County," Emouna said. "It's a nationwide epidemic."

Rice spokesman John Byrne said the district attorney has not referred any SAT or ACT cases to other jurisdictions. A spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that office does not confirm or deny investigations.

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Sources have said prosecutors have looked at as many as 35 possible cheaters, but can charge only a fraction of those because of issues involving evidence, jurisdiction and the statute of limitations.

Thomas Ewing, a spokesman for ETS, the Princeton, N.J.-based company that administers SATs for the College Board, said Monday that ETS will upgrade security procedures if that is warranted. He said the College Board has hired a group run by former FBI director Louis Freeh to review test-security protocols.

"We hope this will serve as a wake-up call to any students, not only on Long Island or in New York, but across the country, who are thinking of risking their futures with such an unethical and foolish act," Ewing said.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chairman of his chamber's Higher Education Committee, Monday urged Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota to contact school superintendents in his county, telling them to check for SAT test fraud and to report any suspected cases.

Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Spota, said the district attorney plans to send out a letter to superintendents this week.

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"Despite the extensive reporting on the problems in Nassau County regarding cheating on the SAT and ACT exams, this office has received no evidence from any source to suggest similar conduct is ongoing in Suffolk County," Spota said in a statement.

"At the request of Sen. Ken LaValle, we are contacting all school superintendents in the county to verify that they do not have any information which could support a criminal investigation."

With John Hildebrand

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