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Ex-principal, teachers at Singapore tuition centre jailed over O-Level exam cheating scheme involving FaceTime, Bluetooth devices

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(From left) Poh Yuan Nie, 54, her niece, Fiona Poh Min, 33, and tuition teacher Feng Riwen, 28. — TODAY file pic
(From left) Poh Yuan Nie, 54, her niece, Fiona Poh Min, 33, and tuition teacher Feng Riwen, 28. — TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 16 — The principal and two teachers of a now-defunct tuition centre were jailed today for helping six students to cheat in their O-Level examinations in 2016.

Pony Poh Yuan Nie, 54, who was the principal of Zeus Education Centre in Tampines, was sentenced to four years’ jail.

Her niece, Fiona Poh Min, 33, who worked as a tuition teacher there, received a three-year jail sentence. Another tuition teacher, Chinese national Feng Riwen, 28, was jailed two years and four months.

All three were found guilty in July of 27 charges of abetment and conspiracy to cheat.

Pony Poh still faces 10 other charges of cheating, obstructing justice and failing to report a change in residence, while her niece and Feng each face one more charge of obstructing justice.

Another tuition teacher Tan Jia Yan, who is Pony Poh’s ex-girlfriend, was sentenced to three years’ jail in 2018 but will be appealing against her sentence.

Tan also testified against the trio as a prosecution witness and explained how the scheme worked.

Their plan involved the use of FaceTime’s video-call function, carefully concealed mobile phones and Bluetooth devices.

The students got away with cheating in three papers from Oct 19 to 24 in 2016, but were caught when an invigilator heard unusual electronic transmission sounds and voices coming from one of them during an English exam.

Used FaceTime to broadcast exam papers

During the trial, the prosecution called 21 witnesses including the six students involved, Tan and invigilators from the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.

They also produced the trio’s incriminating police statements.

In her statement, Pony Poh, whom prosecutors pointed to as the mastermind of the scheme, admitted that she had helped students cheat in the O-Level exams.

The students were referred to Zeus by Chinese national Dong Xin, a Singapore permanent resident and director of a company, Nou Cheng.

The firm had allegedly signed contracts with the tuition centre stating that Pony Poh would receive S$8,000 in deposits and S$1,000 in admission fees for each student.

However, the catch was that the monies were “fully refundable” if the students failed to pass their O-Level exams and later failed to get into a polytechnic here.

Tan, Fiona Poh and Feng helped the students to attach wearable Bluetooth devices onto their bodies and put on a skin-coloured in-ear earphone before going into the exam centres.

These devices were linked to mobile phones concealed under the students’ clothing.

Tan and Fiona Poh registered themselves as private candidates and either of them sat for an exam paper with a hidden iPhone affixed to their chests.

During the exam, they used the video-calling application FaceTime to broadcast the exam papers back to their accomplices stationed at the tuition agency.

Once the accomplices had the answers to the exam questions, they called the students individually and read out the answers to them.

The students, who received the instructions through their earphones, would then write down the answers.

The students had also testified that they were told to cough if they could not hear any of the answers clearly so that the answer could be repeated back to them.

Three invigilators who put the scheme to an end testified in court to catching Chinese national Chen Yi cheating.

The speaker in Chen’s earpiece malfunctioned and began emitting sounds when Feng called him. — TODAY

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