More students surrender in SAT cheating scandal

November 22, 2011 2:21:03 PM PST
Thirteen more current and former high school students surrendered on Tuesday in a widening college entrance exam cheating scandal, bringing the total to 20.

The latest wave of arrests involves several schools.

The charges stem from the Nassau County District Attorney's investigation. Four are charged with felony scheming to defraud for allegedly taking the test while posing as a high school student. The other nine are students accused of paying the test-takers.

Tuesday's announcement follows the arrests of seven people in September. At the time, authorities said six Great Neck North High School students paid the seventh, a former Great Neck North student, to take their SAT exams for them. All seven have pleaded not guilty.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said four of the new defendants are accused of taking payments of $500 to $3,600 to stand in for students on SAT or ACT exams. The other nine are accused of paying the alleged impostors to stand in for them.

In total, prosecutors allege that 15 high school students got five others to take tests for them. Rice said prosecutors actually suspect 40 students were involved in cheating but the two-year statute of limitation had expired for many.

"Honest hard-working students are taking a back seat to the cheaters," she said at a news conference. "This is a system begging for security enhancements."

All of those being charged are current or former students at Roslyn High School, St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, Great Neck South High School and North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck.

Attorney Brian Griffin represents two of the defendants - Joshua Chefec, a 20-year-old accused of taking a test for money, and a student accused of paying someone to take a test. Griffin said the two were not guilty, but that the allegations should be handled by the schools, not the district attorney's office.

"You're talking about students cheating on tests," Griffin said. "You're not talking about violent crime. You're not talking about drugs. No one condones but it does not belong in the criminal justice system."

Michael DerGarabedian, who represents a student accused of paying a test taker, agreed.

"I find it very difficult to believe that they're now prosecuting kids based on allegations that they cheated," DerGarabedian said. "Let the school handle it."

The scandal has prompted a state Senate investigation of security procedures surrounding the tests. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh has been retained by the organization that administers the SAT to review security.

Among the new defendants, Rice said those who took the test for money included Chefec, a graduate of Great Neck North High School; Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy; Michael Pomerantz, 18, who attended Great Neck North; and George Trane, 19, a graduate of Great Neck South High School.

Chefec, Justin and Trane surrendered Tuesday and are charged with scheming 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. Pomerantz is expected to surrender Monday and will face identical charges.

Seven students accused of paying others to take the test were also arrested Tuesday and face misdemeanor charges. One is expected to surrender Monday due to a medical condition and one declined to surrender.

The district attorney said that, as in the September arrests, the students charged Tuesday registered to take the test at a different school where they wouldn't be known to proctors. The stand-ins presented unofficial identification with the paying student's name on it and took the test for them, prosecutors said.

Associated Press writers Frank Eltman and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.