A winning basketball coach with a national house-flipping business is now without a coaching contract as private investors, including a fellow coach at Copley High School, are accusing him of not repaying millions of dollars in loans.
Copley-Fairlawn Athletic Director Andy Jalwan said he and Copley High School Principal Eric Smith told the boys and girls basketball teams Friday that Mark Dente won't be their varsity coach next school year.
Superintendent Brian Poe told the Beacon Journal on Monday that Dente is the only coach, to his knowledge, that will not be returning this year.
Dente led the girls team to a division title this year and the boys to victory in 2018.
Why Copley said they removed Mark Dente
Asked about the decision to not renew Dente's contract, Poe said, "The district is moving in a different direction for the boys' and girls' programs next year."
Poe noted that Dente is no longer an employee of the district. The superintendent wouldn't comment on Dente's alleged failure to repay investors, including head soccer coach Wally Senk, who also teaches sixth grade in the district.
Senk and three other men filed lawsuits in Summit County Common Pleas Court this month seeking a total of nearly $7 million in unpaid loans issued since November to Dente and his real estate business, AEM Services LLC.
Dente, his company and his attorney on at least one of the lawsuits did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment. Senk also did not return a phone call Monday.
What were the loans
According to promissory notes issued to investors and listed with the court cases, Senk is owed $499,832, which includes two loans plus Dente's promise to repay them in a couple of months with a "profit."
The promised return on the short-term cash loans ranged from 9% on a $4.5 million loan by Darrel Seibert II, owner of Seibert Enterprises in Twinsburg, to 24% promised to Jeffrey Wallace of New London, Ohio. Wallace gave Dente $459,000 in a series of loans in November and December and was promised that plus $106,000 in profit when the last loan came due in January, according to the lawsuit.
A third investor from New York, Elliot Melis, says he is owed $675,000, according to his lawsuit.
Per the contracts, the investors had to wait 30 to 100 days while the loans remained in default before demanding full payment and filing their individual lawsuits.
"My understanding is that people would invest or loan him money — different words can be used. But he was going to use those (funds) to purchase and flip houses," said attorney Kyle Shelton, who is representing Senk in the half-million-dollar lawsuit. "And I don't fully know the details of what he explained to people, but he would give them these notes, which would promise the return of the principal they put in and what he called profit."
Shelton said he's been approached by other investors who also are considering filing lawsuits against Dente for outstanding loans.
"For some reason that's not known to me, he stopped paying on them," said Shelton, whose started to request records that would shed more light on what Dente did with the millions of dollars he's collected in recent loans.
"I don't know what that's going to uncover," Shelton said. "We've asked for a debtor's exam, which the court has not ruled on yet. Who knows what that will turn up."
Mark Dente's business, legal history
Dente, a 1989 Copley graduate, started renovating and reselling homes in the late 1990s, according to his company's website and state business filings.
He's coached the Copley boys basketball program since 2010 and the girls since January 2017. Previously an assistant coach, he's also worked with the Copley Athletic Association Youth Basketball Program.
Between 2008 and 2010, financial institutions and banks filed more than 80 foreclosure lawsuits against Dente and his companies amid a national housing crisis that cost many people their homes.
By 2012, the Ohio Department of Taxation put a lien on Dente and his wife for $15,000 in unpaid taxes associated with six properties in Akron and one in Barberton.
The foreclosure cases tapered off and a new kind of lawsuit started hitting Dente as traditional lenders came calling for outstanding debt.
PNC Bank won a $10,826.20 lien judgement in 2016. In 2018, Huntington Bank sought, and was eventually awarded, $58,098.96. In 2019, the bank said it was owed due to Dente's failure to repay a loan. A judge put a lien on Dente and his company Landmark Property Development LTD. The Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB came after Dente in 2019 for a $14,955 loan with interest of more than $26,000.
The more recent lawsuits have been filed by private lenders, not banks, who say they loaned Dente money to fuel his wholesale real estate business. Dente would buy and flip homes using the cash infusion from investors, who were promised considerable profits for two months of lending.
According to one investor familiar with Dente's business, AEM Services LLC sometimes lined up buyers and sellers, making thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on transactions without ever taking ownership of properties that were renovated and flipped.
AEM Services currently has active wholesale real estate listings in Ohio, Missouri, Texas, Nevada and Alabama.
Concerns about flipping, permits, repairs, disclosures
During the pandemic, homebuyers across Ohio have accused Dente and his company of failing to pull building permits, make adequate repairs or disclose issues like water damage in the homes he's sold them.
In June 2020, a homebuyer paid AEM Services $187,000 for a 1,852-square-foot, single-family colonial on Tolland Road in Shaker Heights. As in the other cases, Dente used his son as the listing agent.
The deal included a disclosure by Dente that the property had no major current or previous water damage, according to court documents in Cuyahoga County. But the basement flooded and the roof leaked less than three months after the home was purchased, according to a lawsuit the new homeowner filed in June 2021 alleging breach of contract, negligence, fraudulent concealment and more.
Months after the purchase, the buyer demanded Dente make the necessary repairs. It was at that time that the homebuyer said Dente and his company admitted to not sealing wet spots in the basement or inspecting the main roof. For the first time, Dente disclosed that he'd fired the window installer for substandard work, the new homeowner alleged in the lawsuit.
The case was settled out of court in March for an undisclosed amount. Dente, his company and his son's employer split the court costs, according to a judge's entry.
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A married couple in Cincinnati filed a lawsuit last week alleging that Dente and his company failed to get city permits, have the work inspected or apply for an occupancy permit after the work was completed in “a sub-standard and careless manner,” according to the lawsuit filed by the couple who bought the flipped property.
After the purchase, the couple said they “suffered illness” due to possible carbon monoxide exposure caused by poor ventilation of a water heater in the basement. Some of the plumbing is out of code, the couple said in their lawsuit, which alleges that Dente and his company “knowingly misled” or failed to disclose issues prior to the sale.
A third lawsuit in Summit County is scheduled for mediation next month. According to the case, AEM lined up a buyer willing to pay $345,000 in May 2020 for a home flipped by Dente and his company.
Since the purchase, the new homeowner said she has learned that the previous owner told Dente the septic tank backed up in basement, the roof leaked and at one point had collapsed, there was water damage in the walls and ceilings, and the taxes were lower than normal because the property had been vacant and listed as uninhabitable. Dente bought the property with ankle-deep water in the basement, the lawsuit alleges.
The new homeowner said Dente disclosed none of this. Since buying the property, she and her teenage daughter have been ill and hospitalized after drinking contaminated water from the well.
Reach reporter Doug Livingston at email@example.com or 330-996-3792.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Copley High basketball coach Mark Dente sued by private investors