Former teacher jailed 4 months for conning student of $4,000

SINGAPORE - Claiming a needy student needed to borrow money, a former secondary school teacher convinced one of his students to hand over $4,000.

But the needy student did not exist, and the person facing financial difficulty was Low Yiming himself. On Tuesday, Low, 31, was jailed four months for cheating his former student on three occasions in 2011.

He pleaded guilty to one count, with another two taken into consideration. Low was also fined $1,500 for an unrelated theft in dwelling charge, over $124.30 in products taken from Mustafa Centre last August.

The court heard that Low, then employed by the Education Ministry, had been deployed to the school in Bedok. On a few occasions in 2011, Low had taught then-Secondary 4 student Lai Jinhua when Low stood in as a relief teacher in Mr Lai's class.

On the first occasion on Oct 14, 2011, Low sent a text message to Mr Lai, an overaged student who is now 22. This stated that Low was helping a Secondary 3 student who was in need of $2,000, and asked if Mr Lai could lend some money. Low later called Mr Lai and said the money was needed urgently. When asked who this schoolmate was, Low said the needy student did not wish to disclose his identity.

Mr Lai transferred $2,000 to Low's bank account the same day, as he trusted his relief teacher. He handed over another $2,000 two days later.

Pleading for leniency for his client, Low's lawyer Louis Joseph said the man was desperate for money to support his terminally ill father and diabetic mother but was too embarrassed to tell the truth. He had no intention to deceive his former student and planned to return the money, Mr Joseph said.

Low has returned the money to Mr Lai. For each count of cheating him into handing over money, the former teacher could have been jailed for up to ten years and fined.