FBI wants to talk to people who invested with former Copley coach's real estate company

Former Copley basketball coach Mark Dente, who is accused of operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked more than 800 investors out of more than $220 million, is being investigated for fraud by the FBI.

The FBI sent a questionnaire to people who invested with Dente and his real-estate company AEM Services LLC this week. The agency also put a query for investors on its website.

Former Copley basketball coach Mark Dente
Former Copley basketball coach Mark Dente

The agency is encouraging people who invested with Dente to fill out the information and to urge other investors they know to do the same.

The questionnaire provides the first official confirmation that Dente, and possibly his associates with AEM, could face criminal charges.

Investors from across the country invested with AEM, expecting Dente, who was then the boys and girls basketball coach at Copley High School, to use their money to buy and flip property. They were happy, at first to make 8-12% — or up to 30% if they let it ride — for loaning Dente their money for 60 or 90 days.

Then, they say, Dente stopped paying them in late 2021.

In the next few months, investors filed nearly 100 lawsuits against Dente and his businesses, including AEM Services. The cases were consolidated into one.

In June, a visiting Summit County judge appointed Mark Dottore, a Cleveland attorney, to find and recover the lost money.

More: Where's the money? Investigator says millions still missing in Mark Dente investment probe

Dottore said he and his associates have been cooperating with the FBI on its investigation. He said he isn’t sure about the agency’s timeline.

“I’ve been doing this for 42 years and have worked with the FBI,” said Dottore, who has been the receiver on numerous cases. “They’re very meticulous. They never let you know until it’s happening.”

Dente has denied any wrongdoing in court filings. His former attorney withdrew from representing him, and Dente hasn't yet hired a new lawyer.

What the FBI is seeking

The FBI in Cleveland is seeking information from people who were sold securities in the form of promissory notes and LLC interest by Dente and his associates.

The investments were issued from entities owned by Dente, including AEM Services, AEM Funding, AEM Wholesale LLC, AEM Investments LLC and AEM Capital Fund, the agency said in a news release Wednesday.

The FBI mailed letters to presumed victims and is seeking to identify others who were victimized by Dente or other AEM employees, including Jason Ramus, Brian Buckham and Mark Gathagan.

The FBI’s questionnaire asks for demographic information about investors and then for details about their investments, including whom persuaded them to invest, what documentation they received, whether they requested that their money be returned and if they got it back, and when they last communicated with an AEM representative. It also asks how much they invested and when, how the funds were provided, and whether they received interest payments or rolled over the investment.

Investors who respond to the query may be contacted and asked to provide additional information. The identity of victims will be kept confidential, the FBI said.

Victims may be eligible for certain services, restitution and rights under federal or state law, the FBI said.

Susan Licate, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Cleveland, declined Wednesday to comment further on the investigation.

Resources available to investors

The FBI said investors with questions or comments about the case can send emails to AEMVictims@fbi.gov.

Those with questions about the letter and questionnaire they received can call the FBI Youngstown Victim Services at 330-965-2920 and mention file number 318B-CV-3606224.

Dottore said investors who have questions about what he is doing as the receiver can call his office at 216-771-0727 or visit his company’s website, www.dottoreco.com. Click on the AEM tab under “current cases.”

The FBI listed other resources available to investors with its online questionnaire. These include:

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: FBI seeks information from those who invested with former Copley coach