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November 22, 2011

13 More Face Arrest in SAT/ACT Cheating Scandal

Four charged with taking test and nine more charged with paying for top scores

MINEOLA, NY – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced today that 13 more current and former high school students face arrest for their roles in a high-stakes SAT/ACT cheating scandal that has placed a national spotlight on lax security on the college placement exams.

Joshua Chefec
Adam Justin
George Trane

Rice said that her office’s ongoing investigation into the Great Neck North cheating scandal uncovered nine more students who paid four test takers from 2008 to 2011 to take the SAT or ACT for them so they would achieve a higher score. Those who took the test, for payments ranging from $500 to $3,600, are Joshua Chefec, 20, a graduate of Great Neck North H.S.; Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy; Michael Pomerantz, 18, who attended Great Neck North H.S.; and George Trane, 19, a graduate of Great Neck South H.S.

Chefec, Justin, and Trane surrendered to DA Investigators this morning and are charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree, and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree. They each face up to four years in prison if convicted and are scheduled to be arraigned later today.

Pomerantz is expected to surrender Monday due to a medical condition and will face identical charges.

Seven other students who paid others to take the test were also arrested this morning by DA Investigators and face misdemeanor charges. One of the paying students is expected to surrender Monday due to a medical condition. Five of these students are alumni of Great Neck North High School, two attended North Shore Hebrew Academy, and one graduated from Roslyn High School. Another student, who attends St. Mary’s High School, declined to surrender to Investigators today and arrest arrangements will be made. Due to their ages and the nature of the charges against them, these defendants will be prosecuted as youthful offenders and by law their cases will remained sealed. They are scheduled to be arraigned later today in First District Court, Hempstead.

Rice said that the scandal broke in early 2011 when Great Neck North High School faculty members heard rumors that students had paid a third party to take the SAT for them. Administrators at the top-ranked high school identified the six students by first looking for students who took the test at a different school. They then compared those students’ academic records against their test results. Large discrepancies between the test score and the academic record were a clear red flag. Those six students were arrested on September 27, as well as Samuel Eshaghoff, who was charged with taking the test for them.

As was the case with the September arrests, the paying students charged today registered to take the test at a different school where they wouldn’t be known to proctors. The third party presented unofficial identification with his photo and the paying student’s name on it and took the test for them.

Educational Testing Service (ETS), the non-profit organization that administers the test, told prosecutors that it conducted its own investigation of the matter, but was unable to provide some investigation documentation to prosecutors because of document retention problems that they are addressing with vendors. ACT, Inc. is a non-profit organization that administers the ACT test. ACT and ETS do not notify colleges or high schools when students are suspected of cheating, but instead cancels their scores and offers suspected cheaters a refund, a free re-test, or the opportunity to arbitrate.

“Educating our children means more than teaching them facts and figures. It means teaching them honesty, integrity, and a sense of fair play,” Rice said. “The young men and women arrested today instead chose to scam the system and victimize their own friends and classmates, and for that they find themselves in handcuffs.”

Chief Diane Peress and Assistant District Attorneys Christine Burke and Kristofer Kasnicki of theEconomic Crimes Bureau and Chief Marshall Trager of the Government & Consumer Frauds Bureau are prosecuting the cases for the DA’s Office. Chefec is represented by Brian Griffin, Esq. Trane is represented by Eric Sachs, Esq. Justin is represented by Arnold Kriss, Esq.

Attorneys for the unnamed students arrested for paying the test takers are Brian Griffin, Esq., Gerard McCloskey, Esq., Robert McDonald, Esq., Stuart Kanoff, Esq., Darmin Bachu, Esq., and Michael DerGarabedian, Esq.

The investigation was conducted by DA Investigators Jason Jerome and John Cassino, and Legal Assistant Stacey Musacchio.

These charges are only allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.