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LSAT prep course owner
accused of running scam

By: Stephen Keller

Posted: 1/23/08
Daily Texan

Police said they believe an Austin man stole thousands of dollars from law school hopefuls nationwide.

Thomas Lowry, the 57-year-old owner and operator of LSAT Intensive Review, is accused of scamming college students with a fake prep course for the Law School Admission Test, said Senior Police Officer Veneza Aguiņaga, spokeswoman for the Austin Police Department.

"He advertised about this class and then decided that he was going to cancel the classes," Aguiņaga said. "There was promise of some reimbursement for the canceled classes, but those were never made to anybody."

Officials said Lowry has been charged with one count of theft, but police are investigating more than 30 additional victims. Officials said each charge is punishable by 180 days to two years incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines. About 21 counts submitted proof of payment and gave written statements to police, Aguiņaga said. Police believe Lowry operated the prep course for more than 20 years in Austin before attempting to scam students.

Though police could not confirm if Lowry had been charged with previous crimes, the department released a booking photo of the suspect from 2003, Tuesday.

"I believe advertisements for this particular course began in May of 2007, then the classes were canceled beginning in September," Aguiņaga said. "There were advertisements online. Some of the victims claim there were advertisements on paper at several different college campuses. I don't know what his motive was or why after 20 years, in May of 2007 he was going to scam people."

One of the victims tipped off police in September, Aguiņaga said. She said she did not know if any of the victims were UT

"I don't believe he tried to hide his name or anything like that; he was just out in the open," she said.

Aguiņaga said she did not know the amount students paid to enroll in the course.

"I think it was under $400," she said. "For any college student, or anybody really, that's a large amount of money to lose out."

Lowry graduated from UT School of Law in 1981 and founded the review program the same year. The program no longer operates.

Monica Ingram, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the UT law school, said the University does not endorse any test prep program, but encourages students to prepare as best they can.

"This is the first [program] that I've heard of that is actually a scam, that there are no services being provided," Ingram said. "Any time that any potential customer hears that a program has been endorsed by a particular school or law school, that's typically not what educational institutions are in the business of doing. The first time someone hears that, call that entity."

Ingram said she was not aware of any UT students who had been scammed.

"There is a lot that rides on students performing as well as they possibly can," Ingram said. "It's also a time that's fraught with anxiety. To take advantage of someone, and most of the people are disproportionately young people, is egregious."