O-Levels cheating case: Tuition centre principal, 2 others jailed

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·3-min read
Hand of student holding pencil for exam
Photo from Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A protracted trial involving a trio accused of carrying out a sophisticated O-Levels cheating operation culminated in all three being given jail terms on Wednesday (16 September).

Pony Poh Yuan Nie, 54, the principal of Zeus Education Centre; her niece Fiona Poh Min, 33, and another part-time tutor, Chinese national Feng Riwen, 28, hatched an elaborate scam that involved another tutor, Tan Jia Yan, 34, sitting for the exams as a private candidate with a smartphone strapped to her body.

Their goal was to help six Chinese national students - all enrolled in Zeus - cheat in the 2016 GCE O-Levels Examinations.

Pony was sentenced to four years’ jail, Fiona to three years, and Feng to two years and four months. Tan was sentenced to three years’ jail last April for her role in the scheme.

The trio first went on trial in April 2018, with all three contesting 27 charges each.

They were convicted on all charges, which included 26 counts of conspiring with each student to cheat the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board into thinking each student would take the examinations without assistance, and one charge of attempting the same offence.

Feng and Fiona each still have one stood down charge of obstructing justice, while Pony has 11 pending charges, including cheating.

Elaborate cheating scam

While sitting for the examination, Tan would use the Facetime app to send a live feed of the paper back to the other members of her team. Poh, Fiona and Feng would then work out the solutions to the answers before feeding them to the students, who were taking the exams concurrently.

Each student would be equipped with a Bluetooth device which was connected with mobile phones hidden under their clothing, and a skin-coloured earphone through which they would receive the answers.

The exams, conducted between 19 and 24 October 2016, were for Mathematics Paper 1 and 2, English Paper 1 and 2, and the Science Physics/Chemistry Revised Practical Paper.

The scheme unravelled after an alert invigilator heard unusual electronic transmission sounds and voices emitting from a student.

In sentencing submissions, the prosecution said, “The overall conspiracy was hatched by the mastermind, Poh Yuan Nie (Pony), while each of the other accused played a key role in the audacious, multi-faceted and time-sensitive operation to relay questions and answers back and forth between different examination halls and the tuition centre.”

While the prosecution asked for 52 months’ jail for Pony, it sought the sentences imposed by the court for Fiona and Feng.

Sentencing the three in court on Wednesday, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said the trio had “scandalised” the examination system of Singapore and had caused a degree of harm to its reputation on a national level.

The judge agreed with two of the sentences proposed by the prosecution.

Pony, who is represented by lawyer Peter Keith Fernando, and Fiona, represented by lawyer Peter Ong, will be appealing both conviction and sentence. Feng will be appealing, but has discharged her lawyer James Chai.

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