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The Straits Times
November 23, 2023
A Nanyang Technological University (NTU) dropout forged a bachelor’s degree in engineering certificate from the university and cheated at least five companies into hiring her between 2005 and 2021.
On Nov 23, Fonseka Wannerichega Hema Ranjini, 44, was convicted of two counts of cheating and a count of committing forgery. Two similar charges will be taken into consideration for her sentencing.
Using the fake certificate to apply for jobs, Fonseka was hired by companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Marshall Cavendish and Scholastic Education International, earning a monthly salary of between $4,200 and $6,800.
The court heard that Fonseka, whose highest attained educational qualification is GCE A levels, enrolled at NTU to study engineering in 1998, but dropped out in August 2004 as she struggled to pass various modules and pay the tuition fees.
In 2005, Fonseka used a computer programme to design a certificate showing that she graduated from NTU in June 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering with third-class honours.
She told the court on Nov 23 that she made the certificate by adding her name and major to a template she found online. She printed the certificate on cardstock paper and laminated it.
She applied for various jobs using the fake certificate.
In August 2005, Fonseka was hired by publisher Marshall Cavendish as an assistant managing editor with a monthly salary of $4,200.
It is not clear how long she stayed at the company. Court documents stated that she became an acquisition associate at Marshall Cavendish from November 2012 to May 2013, during which she drew the same salary of $4,200 a month.
In July 2015, Fonseka joined publisher Scholastic Education International as an assistant managing editor, earning $4,300 a month. She was promoted to managing editor a year later, and was paid $4,600 a month.
She was laid off from the company in February 2017 due to unsatisfactory work performance, the court heard.
Scholastic paid her a total of $83,800 during the period of her employment.
In 2021, Fonseka applied to entertainment and media enterprise The Walt Disney Company in South-east Asia and was hired as a learning editor in the publishing department from June to December that year.
Her monthly salary there was $6,800 a month and she was given a transport allowance of $1,084 a month, bringing her total remuneration to $7,884 a month.
Her offences came to light when Walt Disney sent her fake certificate to be validated by a third-party vendor shortly after she was hired.
After NTU confirmed that it did not award Fonseka with a degree, Walt Disney’s human resources department asked the accused for an explanation.
She claimed that she withdrew from NTU in her final year of undergraduate studies, but the university issued a certificate at her request to prove she was enrolled there for a period of time.
In October 2021, an NTU employee lodged a police report over the fake certificate. Fonseka resigned from Walt Disney in December 2021. The company paid her about $47,300 during the period of her employment.
According to court documents, she was also hired by publishing firm Cengage Learning Asia, and design and communications firm Oxygen Studio Designs in 2018.
She will be sentenced on Dec 6.
For cheating, Fonseka can be jailed for up to three years and fined. For committing forgery, she can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.