The pressure and drive to exceed in school never ends. Instead of studying a little longer and a little harder, however, the answer for some students is figuring out the best shortcut. According to the Kathleen Rice and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Sam Eshaghoff, a former University of Michigan and current Emory student, was arrested after sitting for the SAT on behalf of at least a half a dozen high school students in exchange for thousands of dollars. Not a full fledged criminal enterprise, but more than an amateur operation, its further alleged that Eshaghoff sat for the SAT on Long Island at schools where administrators would not know the real students. Further, it is claimed that Eshagoff was armed with fake and phony New York State drivers licenses.
As interesting and as appealing as this case is, I have witnessed these types of scams on a much larger and even an international scale. As a Manhattan prosecutor, I led the investigation and prosecution of approximately two dozen individuals for either fraudulently taking or paying another person to take the GRE, GMAT and TOEFL. Education Testing Service (ETS) administers these examinations as well as the SAT. The Manhattan criminal enterprise, which extended well beyond the borders of New York and the United States, was extensive. Using faking passports at examinations centers and providing fraudulent diplomas, recommendation letters, transcripts, bank statements and other materials to universities and colleges throughout the United States, hundreds of students began their studies not on merit, but on fraud. In fact, the investigation revealed these students enrolled at NYU Stern School of Business, Columbia University Teachers College, Baruch College, UCLA, University of Michigan, Tulane Medical School, Canada’s McGill University and many other prestigious institutions.
Although DA Rice has already announced in her press release that she only charged and arrested Eshaghoff, a Great Neck, Long Island High School graduate, for Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, much more serious charges could have been brought if prosecutors did a little more homework. Other than Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, an “E” felony punishable by up to four years in prison, the other offenses charged by Ms. Rice are misdemeanors. If prosecutors had subpoenaed ETS and obtained the correct documents and properly applied the law to the alleged conduct, other charges would be viable including higher “D” felonies. Moreover, the students who paid for the services could be charged as accomplices for such crimes as possessing a forged drivers license and falsification of records at ETS used prior to and as part of the SAT. More specifically, all parties could face Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (false drivers license) and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (causing a false entry to be made while furthering a Scheme to Defraud, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument or even Identity Theft).
In the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prosecution of the professional test taking ring, we went as far as charging Identity Theft in the First Degree although no actual “theft” occurred. Briefly, the theory of that charge was that the test takers utilized personal identification of the students with the intent to defraud ETS and various colleges or make a fraudulent passport (in the current case against Eshaghoff the identification is a drivers license). Although there was no theft because students voluntarily gave their information, the Identity Theft statute does not contain the “permission and authority language.” This theory of Identity Theft where one permits the use of his or her personal information by another to defraud was cutting edge. To combat the charges, some of the criminal defense lawyers argued that there was no “intent to defraud” because good will, a potential position at a school, or the integrity of the testing process, unlike cash or property, was not the type of fraud intended by the statute. Unfortunately for those defendants, that defense failed.
Make no mistake. There are hard working, honest, diligent students who strive to better themselves and their education. Most of them do not have the means to pay others to do their work. Even if prosecutors can “throw the book” at these teens, what happens to their futures should be more important than a press release and a “tough on crime” stance. If true, all of their actions were unquestionably wrong. A desire to get ahead in life cannot be substituted with the intent to scam and cheat. Hopefully, however, prosecutors give these students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, pay back society, and show that they have the ability to become valuable members of their communities.
For a wealth of information about Identity Theft, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Falsifying Business Records and Criminal Impersonation please follow the respective links. Additionally, the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com has extensive information on these and other crimes as well as analysis of legal decisions, statutes and cases in the news. Coming in the end of October, Saland Law PC’s new website and blog – NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com and NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyersBog.Com – will be another resource for material on New York theft and larceny crimes.
Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent the accused throughout the New York City region.