LAFAYETTE, La. — T.M. Landry College Preparatory School, a private school in Louisiana that garnered national attention for helping underprivileged and minority students attend elite colleges, is under federal investigation over its college admissions practices after disclosures that it cut corners and doctored applications, according to multiple people contacted by the FBI.
The FBI opened the inquiry after a Times investigation detailed instances of transcript fraud and physical and emotional abuse at the school.
In the fall, dozens of former students and teachers told the Times that T.M. Landry’s founders, Michael and Tracey Landry, doctored school transcripts with fake grades, nonexistent school clubs, and fictitious classes. They said the couple embroidered their college application recommendation letters with fabricated stories of hardship that played on negative racial stereotypes.
The report also prompted the Louisiana State Police to open a local law enforcement investigation into more than a dozen allegations of physical abuse at T.M. Landry. That investigation is continuing.
While the scope of the Justice Department investigation is not known, the FBI has discussed T.M. Landry’s college application practices as part of the inquiry, according to one person interviewed by federal investigators who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is not public.
The inquiry comes against the backdrop of a wide-ranging admissions scandal this year, which exposed how ultrawealthy families bribed officials and faked elaborate athletic credentials to get their children into desirable colleges.
Despite the vast differences, the cases underscore just how important and competitive college admissions have become.
The FBI said it does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations and declined to comment. The Landrys did not respond to a request for comment.
The Landrys and T.M. Landry board chairman Greg Davis have told parents and donors that they have done nothing wrong, and they are working to expand the school’s enrollment and repair its reputation. The school has told investigators that it has lost scores of students after the Times article, and that its graduating class dwindled to four, from 16.
Davis has also played up the findings of a 23-page report that summarized an internal investigation into the allegations published in the Times. In letters to donors, Davis said the report, which was released in April, “validates the academic outcomes” of T.M. Landry students.
The New Orleans law firm that Davis hired to conduct the internal inquiry, Couhig Partners, worked with Paul Pastorek, a former state superintendent of schools, who described Davis as a personal friend in his glowing summary of the inquiry.
T.M. Landry “appears to have been a genuine incubator for success, particularly for self-reliant students willing to put faith in a nontraditional education model,” Pastorek wrote.