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Officials Look For Possible SAT/ACT Exam Cheating In Suffolk County

Donna Cooke, guidance director (left) and Superintendent Roberta Gerold (right), of the Middle Country School District, reading DA's letter (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Donna Cooke, guidance director (left) and Superintendent Roberta Gerold (right), of the Middle Country School District, reading DA’s letter (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — School officials in Suffolk County are addressing the SAT/ACT cheating scandal that involved students in neighboring Nassau County.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota sent letters to school superintendents, asking for information about possible college entrance exam cheating in their districts.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

“Recently, there has been extensive publicity in Nassau County regarding alleged cheating on standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT. I ask that if you have any information, even historical information, about such conduct being committed in your school district or any other school district in Suffolk County that you immediately contact the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office,” Spota’s letter read.

EXTRA: Read The Letter

Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerald and Guidance Director Donna Cook were skeptical that they would hear of any such cheating in their district.

“I don’t think you’re going to hear from districts that are similar to Middle Country economically. Maybe the richer districts. Maybe, where they have that kind of disposable income,” they said.

Two students surrendered to police Monday morning Nassau County, bringing the total number of students facing criminal charges to 20.

Photos: Suspects In SAT Cheating Scandal Surrender

Michael Pomerantz, 18, faces felony charges for allegedly being paid $500 to take the college entrance exam for another student.

The other defendant who turned himself in Monday faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly buying those test taking services. His name is not being released because of his age, but his attorney didn’t waste any time getting the ball rolling.

“I don’t know what the district attorney will do next in this case, but we are ready to fight,” Kevin Keating told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Nassau County prosecutors have so far identified 15 alleged test-buyers and filed felony charges against five so-called imposters, including 19-year-old North Shore Hebrew Academy graduate Adam Justin.

Justin, as well as two other accused test takers, Joshua Chefec and George Trane, surrendered Friday.

The SAT-ACT test taking process is now under review by a state Senate subcommittee on higher education.

The accused students’ families and lawyers downplay the seriousness of scandal and are concerned about an overzealous prosecution. They want schools — not courts — handling cheating scandals. However, the investigation is rocking some parts of the affluent North Shore,where students attend some the nation’s elite high schools.

“I don’t think this matter should be criminalized. I think it should remain in the schools and the discipline should be in the schools,” resident Vincent Gerardi said.

“I think it’s very serious. I think they should be punished for their crimes, held accountable, absolutely,” added Kathryn Augeri.

“There is a reason our criminal justice systems is separate and apart from our school system,” Chefec’s attorney, Brian Griffin, said. “This is where the matter belongs.”

Some students disagree.

“I think it is actually a serious case and they should be tried,” one student said. “It’s keeping other kids out of college and not fair. It’s denying people a chance they worked hard for.”

The case against Sam Eshaghoff, the first student charged with a felony for allegedly taking money to take the test, has been postponed pending a possible grand jury investigation.

“We understand this is a nationwide epidemic. It has nothing to do with Nassau County, and that’s what we’ve been saying all along,” Eshaghoff attorney Matin Emouna told McLogan.

What do you think of the decision in Suffolk County to investigate possible cheating? Sound off in our comments section below…