The former Great Neck North High School student accused of cheating on SAT exams for other students says he found it was "easy" to start, but, with money rolling in, it was difficult to stop.
Sam Eshaghoff, 19, told CBS News' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday night that he had heard of people at his school taking tests for money but didn't start doing so himself until a struggling student asked how much he would charge.
The first test went very well and his "business" grew.
"I got a perfect score on the math section and it was like, 'Whoa! That was easy!' . . . And that was great," said Eshaghoff, a freshman at Emory University. "I'm good at this!"
He said lax security -- students are asked only to present a school identification card at the testing site -- and poorly trained proctors made his task easy.
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice told Newsday after the show aired that the case has drawn national attention "because the cheating epidemic we uncovered in Nassau County could be happening anywhere in America, and the kids who play by the rules are the real victims."
Kurt Landgraf, president of the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT for the College Board, told "60 Minutes" it's important not to overreact and most students take the exam with integrity.
"Sam Eshaghoff is a smart kid, but you don't have to be a brainiac to cheat the system the way it exists at this present time," Rice told "60 Minutes." "There's absolutely no security procedures in place. Any review is done after the fact, which prevents any level of accountability once the cheaters are caught. And that system has to change."
Her investigation implicated 50 students and spanned four counties; it included brokers who matched test takers with other students.
"This was lots of money changing hands," Rice said."There were high stakes involved and there was forgery, there was impersonation," Rice said. "That's fraud on many different levels, but most importantly against the kids who play by the rules."
She called Eshaghoff an "academic gun for hire."
"A lot of times I would actually even induce a bidding war between two potential clients and have them fight against each other for who was going to pay me more," Eshaghoff told "60 Minutes."
Eshaghoff said he knew he had to stop, but his need for money made it hard to quit. "I was low on cash and I just told myself, 'One last time, one last time, one last time.' "
He was finally caught after three years, when test takers with high scores confessed under questioning.
With Ann Givens