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Nassau County prosecutors recently charged seven Long Island teens in an SAT cheating scandal. Six students at Great Neck North High School are accused of paying alumnus Samuel Eshaghoff between $1,500 and $2,000 to sit for the exam in their names.
The SAT cheaters were caught after teachers reported rumors to the Educational Testing Service (ETS). An investigation uncovered a wide gap between SAT scores and GPA , and was eventually referred to prosecutors.
Many are now wondering why SAT cheating is criminal.
A closer look at the charges should provide some explanation. Samuel Eshaghoff was charged with falsifying business records, criminal impersonation and engaging in a scheme to defraud.
A person falsifies business records when, with the intent to defraud, he makes or causes a false entry in the business records of a private entity.
Arguably, Eshaghoff intended to deceive the ETS when he provided false identifying information on test forms. This created a false entry in the organization's system, along with fake test results.
Criminal impersonation occurs when one impersonates another with the intent to obtain a benefit or defraud another. Eshaghoff is accused of using fake licenses to impersonate six other students. He allegedly received compensation and deceived the ETS.
A scheme to defraud occurs when a defendant engages in a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud ten or more persons. Prosecutors are alleging a pattern of activity designed to deceive the ETS and college admission committees across the country.
This last point is likely why prosecutors have decided to pursue charges. SAT cheating may seem like an entirely private matter, but it isn't. The SAT cheaters lied to a number of universities, many of which were public. In an era where college costs are high and admissions competitive, such deception can become a serious issue.