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Punishment not set for alleged SAT cheater

Sam Eshaghoff in a 60 MINUTES interview to

Sam Eshaghoff in a 60 MINUTES interview to be broadcast on Sunday, January 1, 2011. Eshaghoff is now a 19-yr-old sophomore at Emory University. This past September he was charged with fraud and criminal impersonation for posing multiple times as other students and gaining entrance to test centers by using fake IDs. He took the two nationally accepted college admissions tests � the SAT and the ACT � a combined total of at least 20 times, charging students up to $2,500 per test. Photo Credit: Photo by 60 Minutes

An interview on "60 Minutes" could turn accused SAT cheater Sam Eshaghoff's mandated community service work from a gig tutoring underprivileged children into a stint spearing trash at the side of a highway, a source close to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Friday.

On Thursday, the CBS television news magazine posted a clip of the former Great Neck North High School student's interview, in which he admits taking college entrance exams for money and boasts that he changed kids' lives by helping them get into better colleges. The segment, which also includes an interview with Rice, is set to air Sunday evening.

Eshaghoff's lawyer, Matin Emouna of Mineola, told Newsday that Eshaghoff had made a plea deal in which he agreed to tutor underprivileged students instead of serving jail time.

But a source close to the DA said that the type of community service Eshaghoff will complete is not set in stone, and that Rice is not likely to allow him to tutor students when "it's clear he still doesn't understand the importance of ethics or honesty."

"The community service . . . will almost certainly be significantly less sophisticated work than originally planned," the source said, adding that trash pickup, janitorial work and park maintenance are more likely.

Eshaghoff, 19, a sophomore at Emory University, was arrested in September and has pleaded not guilty to criminal impersonation and other charges. Prosecutors have said he took the test for as many as 15 students for fees ranging up to $3,600.

Emouna could not be reached for comment Friday. On Thursday, Eshaghoff told Newsday in a Facebook message that he is sorry for what he did.

"Taking others' SATs was the biggest mistake of my life," he wrote. "I hope people can overlook my mistake and recognize me for my strengths."

But Eshaghoff showed a different side of himself to "60 Minutes" interviewer Alison Stewart, according to a news release and a clip posted on the show's website.

"A kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who, no matter how much he studies is going to totally bomb this test," says Eshaghoff, "By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him . . . a new lease on life. He's going to go to a totally new college . . . be bound for a totally new career . . . new path in life."

The source said Eshaghoff's words spoke volumes.

"It's clear that he's only sorry that he got caught, and not remorseful for his actions or the impact he had on honest students," the source said. "This, coupled with his self-serving belief that he was somehow helping students and society, have the DA rethinking what she'll demand as punishment and repayment to the community."

In the snippets of the show released so far, Eshaghoff also says he still could pull off the scam, calling it a "piece of cake."

"I would say that between the SAT and the ACT, the security is uniformly pathetic," he says. "In the sense that anybody with half a brain could get away with taking the test for anybody else."

Calls and emails Friday to the College Board and ETS, which administers the SAT for the College Board, and to ACT Inc. were not returned.

Since the SAT scandal broke, the organizations have strengthened test-security measures. ETS also hired the security consulting firm of former FBI director Louis Freeh to review what more should be done, and ACT set up a task force to evaluate test-related procedures and recommend improvements.

With Jo Napolitano

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