Maryland Shuts Down Laurel Prep; Local Club Faces Additional Investigations

By Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough
|  Thursday, Jul 10, 2014  |  Updated 10:39 AM EDT
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A state investigation, city council hearings and other big developments this week come as a result of a News 4 I-Team investigation into Laurel Prep Academy and the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

Tisha Thompson, Rick Yarborough

A state investigation, city council hearings and other big developments this week come as a result of a News 4 I-Team investigation into Laurel Prep Academy and the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

The Maryland State Department of Education tells the News4 I-Team the well-known basketball prep school known as Laurel Prep Academy is now “officially closed.”

The state launched an investigation into the school after we discovered students going there never took any classes.

But that's just the first in what now appears will be multiple investigations into the school's parent organization, the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

"It's only been innuendo and rumor at this point until you ran your piece,” Laurel Council member Donna Crary told us Wednesday. Crary says she was angered and shocked by what she saw in our News4 I-Team investigation into Laurel Prep.

We showed how kids going there played a lot of basketball but never attended class. The school’s leadership explained they didn't have Internet or working computers. They then told us they were using funds from the Laurel Boys and Girls Club to pay for Laurel Prep's uniforms and other expenses, even though the club has a long history of financial problems and a long list of building and fire code violations.

"When they are standing there admitting certain things on television, I guess that was shocking," Crary said. “I didn't expect them to be admitting it on the record to thousands of people."

Crary said the club has been asking the Council to help pay its bills for years and receives roughly $110,000 in in-kind contributions in recent years.

"You can't be wasting money like this,” she said. “I don't care if it's $10 or $10,000."

The Council has now ordered the club's leaders to appear before them Thursday night to respond to what they saw in our report. At the same time, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe has written a letter to the Maryland state comptroller asking for an investigation into the club for "alleged misuse of club funds, corruption and tax fraud."

The I-Team repeatedly tried to get comment from the club’s leadership in response to these letters and investigations but did not receive a response. When we previously spoke to the club’s longtime leader, Levet Brown, he insisted he’s looking out for the best interest of the club. Rather than improperly use money, he told us he has instead dipped into his own savings to pay some of the club’s outstanding bills.

But Council member H. Edward Ricks says he’s angry because the city held numerous meetings last year as part of special task created to help the club. But he now thinks he was lied to at those meetings based on what he saw in our reports.

"There were things that surprised me,” Ricks said. “Things we thought we knew were going on but even the task force that the mayor and the City Council put together was not able to bring those things to light."

The biggest surprise for Ricks? All of the club's leaders admitted on-camera to the I-Team that people have been living in the club off and on for years, in violation of the city's building codes.

"I worry the kids are being taken advantage of,” Ricks said. “I'm worried that the adults are taking too much for themselves and not enough for the children. I'm worried they are trying to run a school down there where computers aren't even hooked up to the internet. I'm worried that someone is going to get hurt or even killed down there."

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