Helen Smith, 42, was found guilty of arranging for five pupils – three of whom were under 18 – to sit exams at her home in front of a woman who claimed to be a bona fide examiner.
They were later told they had passed the exams, but suspicions were aroused when certificates failed to arrive.
But the former teacher, who was previously been banned from teaching in schools for two years by the General Teaching Council after claiming sick pay while being on holiday, told Sheffield Magistrates’ Court yesterday: “I think I have suffered quite a lot for something I don’t believe I’ve done – even now.”
She also said she’d been victim of a hate campaign, had her windows smashed and received threatening phone calls.
During her trial last month, the court heard how students had paid fees and were tested on December 15, 2012.
Smith, of Sheffield, told magistrates she had arranged the exams in good faith with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). But Lynne Butler, deputy head of UK operations for ABRSM, said the organisation had no record of any exam taking place and had not sent any examiner to the property.
The mother of one of the piano pupils told how her daughter was “absolutely devastated” to learn the truth of what had happened.
Smith claimed an administrative error by the board was possibly to blame but was convicted of six counts of fraud by abuse of position, and one of fraud by false representation between February 2012 and March 2013.
Smith was given a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, ordered to pay £1,500 compensation to her victims at £50 per month, a curfew order and told to attend 15 sessions in Sheffield’s Together Women’s Project.
Passing sentence, District Judge Sheila Driver said: “You attempted to involve yourself in a game of smoke and mirrors, but your evidence was inconsistent, not credible, and frankly nonsense.”