A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ordered on Friday that TutoringZone permanently close and pay back at least $443,500 after defrauding lenders, the Gainesville Sun reports.
In 2011, former owner Matt Hintze and his wife Larina Hintze borrowed about $2.6 million from a group of investors, including friends and family members, to fund the company, which offered students study guides and tutoring lessons, according to Alligator archives.
But when the couple tried to file for bankruptcy, the investors sued them in 2012.
Hintze said he and his wife used the personal loans to buy out a business partner, Ethan Fieldman, in 2011. Fieldman later started Study Edge, a rival tutoring service that remains in operation.
“I’m not a very good business person,” Hintze said. “But I’m a pretty good teacher.”
When one door closes, another opens. A page on TutoringZone’s website, which has since been removed, states several of the company’s tutors — Hintze included — have migrated to a new, similar company called Skoolers Tutoring Center, located where the recently closed Know Where Coffee once stood. TutoringZone reviews are available at the 1226 W. University Ave. building.
Ashley Jacobs, a UF finance sophomore, said she has used TutoringZone on and off since her freshman year.
Jacobs said a friend of hers works at TutoringZone and has told her to go to Skoolers Tutoring Center instead.
“It’s all the same tutors. It’s the same exact packets,” the 19-year-old said. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but I think it’s the same company.”
Perhaps as a way to win over Hintze’s customers, Study Edge is offering current and former TutoringZone clients a free month of services, wrote Richard Melgarejo, the company’s vice president, in an email.
Melgarejo challenged the reputability of TutoringZone, adding that some students who have used the service in the past have been suspected of cheating.
“We do think that students will think twice in the future about spending their money at a less-than-reputable tutoring company that could get them in trouble for cheating or just close its doors all of a sudden one day,” he said.
Hintze said he realizes the errors made with TutoringZone and wants to pay back what he and his wife owe.
“I think that those are personal obligations, and I am going to work my hardest to repay,” he said. “I am definitely committed to doing what I can to provide for my family and repay those loans.”
Hintze said he still hopes to pursue his job as a tutor in Gainesville.
“I’ve tried to keep my head down when it comes to litigation and focus on teaching,” he said.