Former tutor gets 3 years' jail for helping China students cheat in O-level exams

Tan Jia Yan, who is no longer a tutor, would sit the exam as a private candidate and beam a live feed of the paper to her accomplices, using FaceTime. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A tutor took part in an elaborate plot in which answers to O-level English, Mathematics and Science (Physics/Chemistry) exam papers were remotely fed to candidates via carefully concealed communication devices.

In 2016, six Chinese nationals smuggled mobile phones and Bluetooth devices into exam halls in Singapore and the answers were whispered to them over skin-coloured earphones which they wore.

Singaporean Tan Jia Yan, who is no longer a tutor, would also sit the exam as a private candidate and beam a live feed of the paper to her accomplices, using FaceTime.

Her accomplices, in turn, would supply the answers to the students.

On Monday (April 15), District Judge Kenneth Yap said the offences had undermined the principles of meritocracy, and sentenced Tan, 33, to three years' jail.

Tan, who pleaded guilty to 27 cheating charges on April 16 last year, used to work at Zeus Education Centre in Tampines Street 34.

Two of her alleged accomplices are the centre's principal, Poh Yuan Nie, 53, also known as Pony Poh, and her niece, Fiona Poh Min, 31, who also taught at the centre.

Both are Singaporeans while the third person who allegedly took part in the operation was Chinese national Feng Riwen, 27. The trio's cases are still pending.

The court heard that another Chinese national, Mr Dong Xin, 30, referred the six students to Zeus to prepare them for the 2016 O-level examination.

Mr Dong and Zeus had signed contracts stating that for every student he referred to the tuition centre, Poh Yuan Nie would receive $8,000 in deposit and $1,000 in admission fees. The catch was that the money was to be fully refunded if the students failed.

In 2016, before sitting the exams, Fiona Poh, Tan and Feng attached wearable Bluetooth devices, linked to mobile phones, to the students' bodies, the court heard.

Tan would have a camera phone stuck to her chest, under her clothes. She would then take the exam as a private candidate, and use FaceTime to beam images of the paper to her accomplices at Zeus.

Fiona Poh and Feng would work out the answers and convey them to the students, aged between 17 and 20. They have been identified as Zhou Zice, Chen Xiang, Xiao Junze, Wang Fangfei, Chen Yi and Zhang Jinlu.

The court heard that the "sophisticated cheating operations" ran successfully for three days from Oct 19.

But on Oct 24, an alert invigilator thought she could hear transmission sounds coming from one of the students, Chen Yi, and reported the matter to her superiors.

The student was allowed to finish the paper but was later escorted to the invigilators' holding room, where he was asked to remove his vest.

He came clean about his involvement with Tan and the three others after communication devices were found on his body.

Tan was represented by lawyers R. Thrumurgan and A. Sangeetha who pleaded for their client to be given not more than 18 months' jail.

The lawyers stated in their mitigation plea: "This is a one-time mistake in Jia Yan's life, albeit a grave one, and she will certainly not fall foul of the law in the future."

Tan is now out on bail of $20,000 and will surrender herself at the State Courts on April 22 to begin serving her sentence.

For each count of cheating, she could have been jailed for up to three years and fined.

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