JAKARTA - Mohammad Asri Sapuan taught Kuda Lumping, a traditional Javanese dance where performers ride on a puppet horse, at his home in Batam.
That may have been why neighbours of the Singaporean did not suspect anything amiss when young boys were often seen at his house, which doubled up as a dance and art studio.
Many residents The Straits Times spoke to on Friday (Oct 13) said they were shocked when the police came and arrested the 46-year-old last Sunday on charges of sodomy.
Batam police have identified three victims, between the ages of 12 and 16, so far.
But there could be as many as 10 victims, judging from the number of boys in Asri's home when he was picked up, said Second Inspector Benny Syahrizal.
"All the children in the house were brought to the police station to be examined and two told us they were sodomised by the suspect recently," said the chief detective from Nongsa district police.
The two boys, age 15 and 16, who are still in junior high school, regularly slept over at Asri's home.
Inspector Benny said that Asri would give each 20,000 rupiah (S$2) after assaulting them.
The police were alerted to the case last Saturday by the mother of an alleged third victim, who is 12, after she discovered messages between her son and Asri on Facebook.
"The boy forgot to sign out from FB on his mother's cellphone," said Inspector Benny, referring to the social networking site.
"He related what happened after being questioned for over two hours," the inspector added.
Investigations indicate that Asri would lure the boys to his home with money or under the pretext of teaching them Kuda Lumping.
Performers of this dance sometimes claim to be possessed by spirits and while in a trance display unusual abilities like eating glass.
The police said Asri, who has overstayed in Batam since Jan 30, 2014, used the ruse as a dance teacher to sexually groom the boys, later sodomising them in his home as well as in his car. The victims were assaulted on several occasions between Sept 16 and 24.
If found guilty under child protection laws in Indonesia, Asri could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in jail and fined 5 billion rupiah, for each count of sodomy.
Records show that he used to live in Selegie Road and had two small companies in Singapore, both of which were struck off in 2000 and 2006 respectively.
The police and his neighbours in Jasinta, a town that is a 30-minute drive from downtown Batam where he now lives, said that Asri also worked as a driver and guide for visitors from Singapore.
According to Jasinta resident Sukarmi, who like some Indonesians go by just one name, Asri was well-known in the estate.
"During the Independence Day celebrations on Aug 17, he put on a show with his students," said the 46-year-old. "He's been here for a long time, and he's friendly, but I realised he does not like women."
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said she knew Asri was a widower from Singapore, but was not aware that he had overstayed in Batam.
She added: "He seems friendly and was active in promoting his dance, but I'm shocked that he is involved in a sodomy case here."