SAT Cheating Scheme Busted, 7 Arrested

Six high school teenagers and one Emory University sophomore were charged on Tuesday for their involvement in an elaborate SAT cheating scheme.

19-year-old Sam Eshaghoff is alleged to have taken the SAT test for at least 6 students from Great Neck North HS in Long Island, NY. Flying from Emory University in Atlanta, GA to Long Island, NY, Eshaghoff was reportedly paid between $1,500 and $2,500 per student for whom he produced top-tier SAT scores of 2220, 2210, 2140, 2180, and 2170—out of a possible 2400.

To put this into perspective, the average SAT score entering Harvard College is between 2090 and 2390. One of the Great Neck students who graduated last year now attends Arizona State University, a notorious party school with an average SAT score of approximately 1642. Another is at University of Colorado at Boulder, ranked 5th on Newsweek’s list of “50 Druggiest Colleges”.

Each student registered to take the SAT test at a different school where they would not be recognized. Eshaghoff would then show for the test with a doctored New York State driver’s license displaying his photo and the registered student’s name.

The cheating scandal was revealed after Great Neck HS faculty overheard rumors of students contracting someone else to stand in for their tests. According to the prosecution, school administration then pinpointed 6 students who “had large discrepancies between their academic performance records and their SAT scores.” When officials searched for the person in the fake ID photo, they matched it to Eshaghoff, a Great Neck alumnus himself.

Two of those 6 students—who have not been identified due to their age—were accepted to Tulane University in New Orleans, but those acceptances have since been rescinded. The other colleges where the Great Neck students are currently enrolled have not yet commented on what disciplinary action will be taken.

Eshaghoff has been charged with scheming to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 6 years. Eshaghoff denies all criminal charges.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, the charges seem excessive. “This story caught my attention when I heard the students had been arrested. I couldn’t imagine what laws would govern this sort of thing in Minnesota. Criminal impersonation is applicable, but it will be a stretch for the New York DA to prove ‘scheming to defraud’ and ‘falsifying business records’.”

Related Sources:
New York Post
USA Today
New York State Legislature

Prescription Drug DWI Part 1: The Laws

Alcohol and hard drugs aren’t the only substances that can land you a DWI conviction. Driving under the influence of many prescription drugs can also carry the same penalties.

Minnesota Statute 169A.20 defines “driving while impaired” to include driving under the influence of…

  • Any amount of controlled substance classified as Schedule I or II;
  • A hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles in a way that impairs the  ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle.

Many prescription drugs contain substances classified by the federal government as Schedule II:


  • Codeine (Tylenol-3 and 4)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Actiq)
  • Methadone


  • Amphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine)
  • Methyphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Lisdexamphetamine (Vyvanse)

Many of these drugs are routinely prescribed by doctors. But, a person can still be charged with a DWI even if they are only taking their prescribed amount.

It is difficult to discern which prescription drugs qualify as hazardous, and many drivers may have a hard time recognizing if their nervous system, brain, or muscular functions are impaired by a given drug. Not all prescription drugs that cause impairment are marked with a caution to not drive or operate a vehicle.

There are many factors that may influence a prescription drug DWI charge. Stay tuned for part 2 of our Prescription Drug DWI series, and remember— if you are faced with a prescription drug DWI…

  • DO NOT submit to any field sobriety tests
  • DO DEMAND to speak with your criminal defense attorney before answering ANY questions.

Read more about Prescription Drug DWI procedures and defenses.

Related Sources:
U.S. Department of Justice DEA Office of Diversion Control
Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes

The Hobbs Act Gives Robbers 20 Years in Federal Prison

Hobbes ActMinnesota prosecutors are using a 1946 racketeering law to crack down on career criminals. The Hobbs Act brings heavy sentences to repeat offenders: 20 years in federal prison for each violation.

The Hobbs Act targets robberies that affect interstate or foreign commerce. This has a wide margin for interpretation, where seemingly any robbery of a business could be seen as interfering with commerce. U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones addresses this, but says to the Star Tribune that “We are not creatively using it. We are aggressively using it.”

The anti-racketeering act laid down the law for the first Minnesota offender in 2007. Gang leader Carlos McAdory was convicted under the Hobbs Act for his involvement in a string of bar robberies dating from 2002. A jury found him guilty of 3 violations under the Hobbs Act on 9 counts of robbery:

  1. Aiding and abetting and committing robbery affecting interstate commerce
  2. Using and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in a crime of violence
  3. Being a felon in possession of a firearm

…and subsequently sentenced McAdory in federal court to 20 life sentences.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, the deterrent is definitely strong. “No one wants to go through the federal courts and prison systems. However, this seems like a message from the federal system that the state isn’t doing their job effectively to keep repeat offenders off the streets. Because of this, prosecutors are interpreting this law aggressively. Yes, it’s effective, but is this really how we want to employ our federal judiciary?”

Related Sources:

Duluth Shop Continues to Sell Synthetic Marijuana Despite Ban, Raid

Police raided Duluth, MN head shop The Last Place on Earth this Wednesday, seizing over $50,000 worth of synthetic marijuana.

When MN legislature passed the ban on synthetic marijuana in July, Jim Carlson decided he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Despite the ban Carlson continued to sell synthetic marijuana, although he says he stopped selling the now-illegal bath salts last week.

Carlson defended his merchandise, saying that the “herbal incense” synthetic marijuana was in compliance with Minnesota’s new rules. However, an independent test by the Star Tribune found that at least one of his products contained a banned chemical. The Last Place on Earth reopened that same evening after the four-hour raid.

Customers are angry following the seizure, arguing that losing the option of synthetic marijuana may send them back to the street version. Police however are stressing the dangers of synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs, which have been linked to 2 deaths in Maple Grove, MN and Blaine, MN this year.

On Thursday, the day after the raid, Carlson received another shipment of synthetic marijuana. The “herbal incense” is reportedly back on the shelves, despite police warnings that if he reordered, they would raid the shop daily. Carlson says he’s also considering resuming the sale of bath salts.

Related Sources:


[Podcast] – DWI Basics

Minnesota Defense Attorney, Avery Appelman, recently recorded the first of many Appelman Law Firm podcasts. This podcast focuses on the basics of DWI charges in MN. Topics covered include:

Listen to the DWI podcast below, or download it on itunes for free!

Murder Conviction Overturned, Alexandria Father Walks Free

Alexandria MN murder34-year-old Michael Ray Hansen left prison on Thursday after serving 6 years for the death of his infant daughter Avryonna. After his request for appeal was denied, Hansen contacted the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN).

The Innocence Project is a private organization that provides pro bono investigative and legal assistance to prisoners trying to prove their innocence. When IPMN took on Hansen’s case, they discovered a crucial flaw in Avryonna’s original autopsy.

The 2004 medical examiner’s report identified the infant’s cause of death as homicide by blunt-force trauma. However, IPMN charged that the examiner incorrectly assessed the injury, revealing that there was no brain trauma normally associated with this manner of death. After consulting with 5 doctors, IPMN told the court that Avryonna did not die of blunt-force trauma but instead by accidental suffocation.

A judge vacated Hansen’s murder conviction in July in light of the new evidence and Hansen was released on bail to await a new trial. On Friday however, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against Hansen, freeing him nearly halfway through his 14-year sentence.

MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman believes Hansen’s tragic situation could have been avoided with an effective defense team. “Where were his lawyers? Why didn’t they do an independent review of the autopsy? Cases like this are the reason we have a legal adversarial process. This man was freed because someone finally took some care with his case, but he needed that consideration at the original trial.”

Related Sources:

The SCRAM Bracelet – How it Works

scramx braceletThere are a number of criminal consequences to a DWI charge. One of the most common for repeat DUI offenders is home monitoring. The SCRAMx bracelet is an alcohol monitoring device that successfully combines continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) and house arrest in one court-validated device.

SCRAMx is most commonly used with repeat DUI / DWI offenders, but can also be ordered for first-time offenders who have aggravating circumstances. Courts may sentence offenders to SCRAMx in order to deter their likelihood of drinking and driving as well as assess their alcohol dependency levels in order to recommend individualized courses of treatment.

The device is a small bracelet usually attached to the recipient’s ankle. SCRAMx has a 24/7 transdermal alcohol detection plus house arrest technology in its light weight, tamper-proof, and unobtrusive design.

Transdermal alcohol monitoring means that alcohol is measured “through the skin” or by the concentration of alcohol within perspiration which is constantly given off by the skin. The bracelet measures the level of ethanol vapor in the skin. This information can be used to determine the amount of alcohol consumed by the subject, as well as the time period in which it was consumed. Transdermal testing cannot determine exact BAC levels but can qualitatively determine if a subject has had a small, a moderate, or a large quantity of alcohol.

The information travels through the SCRAMx base station which plugs directly into an analog telephone line in the subject’s home or office. From there, alcohol readings, tamper alerts, and diagnostic data are sent to SCRAMNET for detailed analysis and reporting. This detailed information can be accessed around-the-clock from any location using a standard web browser.

Benefits of SCRAMx include 24/7 complete coverage of behavior, the ability to monitor court-mandated curfew schedules, increased accountability of the judge’s orders, scientifically-proven technology, court acceptance, non-invasive, automated testing, helping to lower recidivism, letting offenders maintain family obligations, hold jobs, and contribute to the community. One of the greatest benefits is cost. The SCRAM bracelet is wildly inexpensive compared to jail.


Related Sources:

Intoxbox Could Help Prevent Minnesota DWI Convictions

IntoxBoxA recent Twin Cities invention may help Minnesota’s bar-goers avoid DWIs.

According to inventor Ryan Walden, “You have a speedometer in your car to help you obey the speed limit, yet we’re expected to obey drinking and driving laws without access to a tool that is supposed to help us obey the law.” Enter the IntoxBox, coming to a bar near you.

The IntoxBox is a breath-test machine designed to measure the blood-alcohol content of bar customers. To operate it, the customer pays $2 to blow into a disposable straw attached to the console. They are then asked to guess their BAC level. If guessed correctly, a code is issued for a free test.

Similar products were already available on the market, but problems with accuracy, maintenance, and appearance prevented their widespread use. Walden says he consulted with distributors and bar owners about these issues, and then set out to invent a machine that really worked.

The IntoxBox can be found in 6 popular Twin Cities bars, and there are already plans to install the machines in 15 more locations this year. Walden claims the test is just as accurate as police breathalyzers, but the IntoxBox has one distinct advantage: drivers can measure their BAC before they get pulled over.

Walden believes that the IntoxBox will be a valuable resource for bar patrons and owners alike. It offers customers a resource they need to drink responsibly, and it gives bar owners a new way to bring in business.

IntoxBox can currently be found at Cowboy Jack’s and Joe Senser’s in Bloomington, Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, Shamrock’s and Fabulous Fern’s in St. Paul, and The Cabooze in Minneapolis.

Related Sources:

Breathalyzer 101: How to Fail the Test… Sober

IntoxilyzerThe Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzer machine doesn’t just catch drunk drivers. There are many factors other than alcohol that can influence a breathalyzer test result. As a result, many American drivers are at risk of getting a DWI, even if they haven’t been drinking.

How Does the Breathalyzer Work?

It is crucial to understand that the breathalyzer does not measure the alcohol content of blood. Only a blood test can measure blood content.

The breathalyzer actually measures electrical current. When a person has been drinking, this electrical current is produced when an ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is oxidized to acetic acid (vinegar) at the test site. The current is processed by the machine and then converted into an approximation of blood alcohol content.

Minnesota police use the Intoxilyzer 5000, an infrared radiation breath test machine. When a person breathes into the chamber, the device sends out an infrared beam of light through the breath sample. The machine then measures the wavelength of the beam of light. Chemicals oxidizing from the alcohol group absorb more light and will send a higher reading back to the machine.

The Breathalyzer and Diabetes

Acetone is a chemical compound naturally produced in the human body. It is also oxidized in the same way the body processes ethanol. The average person does not produce high enough levels of acetone to create a measurable reaction. However…

People with diabetes may have acetone levels hundreds or thousands of times higher than the average person. The infrared beam cannot distinguish between ethanol and acetone, so a person with diabetes could very easily get a false-positive breathalyzer test.

The Breathalyzer and the Low-Carb Diet

Diabetics aren’t the only people with high levels of acetone in their body. A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, high-protein, low-carb diet. The diet which burns the pounds rapidly also spikes acetone levels in the body. This can, and has, led to false-positive breathalyzer tests.

The Breathalyzer and Asthma Inhalers

Researchers have found that inhalers taken for asthma can produce high, inaccurate breathalyzer readings—even those inhalers without ethanol. In Spain, a research study on an infrared spectrometer (like the Intoxilyzer) produced startling results:

All of the test subjects had baseline results of zero. After a puff on the inhaler, every one of the participants had breathalyzer readings above the legal limit.

The Breathalyzer and Your Lungs

The infrared spectrometry breath test requires that a person breathe for 4-5 seconds, and that the volume of their breathe must be at least 1.5 liters. Studies have shown that people with smaller lung capacity can obtain highly inaccurate BAC levels or may be unable to register a reading at all and may be seen as refusing to test. Conditions that lead to smaller lung capacity include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Fibrosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Any other congenital lung disease

The Breathalyzer, Fumes, and E85

In a study of fumes on the Intoxilyzer 5000, researchers sprayed paint in a room for 20 minutes while a subject wore a protective mask. The subject, a professional painter, was then given a breath alcohol test. Although a blood test showed no alcohol, the breathalyzer reading was 0.075—barely under the legal limit.

This study could also prove problematic for the growing number of drivers using E85 to fuel their vehicles. The ethanol-based fuel produces ethanol emissions which, if inhaled, could alter BAC results.

The Breathalyzer and Acid Reflux

People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have an increased risk of getting a false-positive result above the legal limit on a breath-alcohol test. Even if only a very small amount of alcohol is consumed, many GERD patients have tested above the legal limit of 0.08, placing them in danger of a DWI conviction.

Because of all the above factors it is essential that you contact a DWI defense lawyer if you are ever arrested for drunk driving.

Related sources:
Clean Air Trust
ABA Journal
University of Washington
St. Louis College of Pharmacy (British Medical Journal)
International Journal of Obesity

Chicago Woman Charged with Forced Prostitution of 16-Year-Old Girl

ProstitutionChicago, IL—On Sept. 11, Ebony Mason went before a Cook County judge on charges of human trafficking and forced prostitution of a minor.

Prosecutors told the court that 27-year-old Mason “knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored and entrapped” the 16-year old girl. The girl told officers she engaged in sex with several men, but it was Mason who pocketed the money.

Wednesday, Mason allegedly brought the girl to a motel on Chicago’s South Side. There, she photographed her in lingerie and posted the images on a website notorious for advertising prostitution. According to Asst. Cook County state’s attorney William Hall, “the defendant and the victim began receiving customers, who paid cash in exchange for sex acts.”

Investigators intervened with a sting operation on Friday. Detectives from the Chicago Police Department’s human trafficking task force answered Mason’s online advertisement, offering $200 for sex with the 16-year-old girl.

According to Avery Appelman, this case may present some difficulty for the state’s attorney team. “While the evidence easily indicates the defendant was promoting prostitution, it may be more of a challenge for the prosecution to prove that human trafficking took place. Human trafficking is a much higher level of offense than pandering, so the state must clearly demonstrate that the victim was taken and moved against her will.”

The girl was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Mason is currently being held on $250,000 bail and is scheduled to appear back in court on Sept. 30.

Read more about prostitution laws, consequences, and defenses in our Prostitution blog series.

Related Sources: