Ex-principal, tutors sentenced to jail for helping students cheat in O-level exams

(From left) Principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre Poh Yuan Nie and two tutors - Fiona Poh Min and Feng Riwen - were each found guilty of 27 counts of cheating.
(From left) Principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre Poh Yuan Nie and two tutors - Fiona Poh Min and Feng Riwen - were each found guilty of 27 counts of cheating.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The former principal of an education centre, who was assisted by her then tutors to help six students cheat in their papers during the 2016 O-level examinations, was sentenced to four years' jail on Wednesday (Sept 16).

Principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre Poh Yuan Nie, 54, and two former tutors - her niece Fiona Poh Min, 33, and Feng Riwen, 28 - were each found guilty of 27 counts of cheating on July 7.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt had convicted the trio following a trial. They committed the offences on multiple occasions in October 2016.

On Wednesday, Fiona Poh was sentenced to three years' jail, while Feng was sentenced to two years and four months in jail.

A fourth offender, former tutor Tan Jia Yan, 34, was sentenced to three years' jail last year over her role in the ruse.

Tan, who used to work at the education centre in Tampines Street 34, had pleaded guilty in April 2018 to 27 cheating charges. The three women are Singaporeans, while Feng is a Chinese national.

The prosecutors had earlier stated in their submissions that Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony, was paid $8,000 per student by Mr Dong Xin - another Chinese national - to provide tuition for the youngsters to help them pass the examinations and enter local polytechnics.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Vadivalagan Shanmuga and Cheng Yuxi had told the court that she masterminded the scheme, while her accomplices would "not do anything without going through her".

A few hours before each examination, Fiona Poh, Tan and Feng helped to tape communication devices on the students.

The students then attended the examinations with these devices taped to their bodies, carefully concealed by their clothes.

Tan also took the examinations as a private candidate and used the FaceTime application on her phone to present a live stream of the question papers to the co-accused stationed at the tuition centre.

 
 
 

Her accomplices then worked on the questions streamed to them. After that, Feng and the others called the students to read the answers to them.

Poh Yuan Nie oversaw the entire process, the court heard.

Tan and Fiona Poh reversed their roles for mathematics paper 2 as Tan was better at the subject.

The DPPs had stated that this criminal set-up succeeded for three papers from Oct 19 to 21 in 2016.

But it got exposed on Oct 24 that year when an alert invigilator heard "unusual electronic transmissions and voices" coming from one of the students.

After the examination, the student was taken to an office where he handed over devices, including Bluetooth receivers and an earpiece.

He also came clean about how the ruse was carried out.

The court heard on Wednesday that Poh Yuan Nie and her niece will be appealing against their conviction and sentence. Feng, however, said that he needs to think things over first.

There is still a pending charge of obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice against each one of them.

Multiple cheating charges against Poh Yuan Nie are also still pending.

The pre-trial conference for the trio’s pending charges will be held on Oct 15.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.