Reupholsterers come under scrutiny

Reupholsterers come under scrutiny

A Medford couple whose upholstery business generated a slew of complaints this spring has been charged with theft after police uncovered a pattern of gouging customers with added costs, then refusing to release their property to them.

Medford police arrested Jeffrey Lynn Kenton, 47, and Amie Jo Harris, 38, Tuesday, several months after the string of complaints started.

Beginning in May, Medford police were repeatedly called to Cover Concepts, 5598 Table Rock Road, to handle disputes and complaints, Sgt. Kevin Walruff said.

"This was beyond just unprofessional work," he said. "This was definitely a planned-out business of defrauding people."

Kenton was charged with three counts of first-degree theft and a second-degree theft charge.

He also was cited on a charge of transacting business without a city business license. He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail, where he remained Thursday on $20,000 bail.

Harris was charged with first-degree theft, second-degree theft, theft by receiving and writing bad checks. She initially was lodged in jail on $14,000 bail, but had been released by Wednesday afternoon.

Walruff said Cover Concepts offered reupholstering services for vehicles, including boats and recreational vehicles. Kenton and Harris would take money to perform a job, then call to demand additional payments for materials and other supplies as the project dragged on, uncompleted.

If customers came to claim their vehicles to take them to other shops to get the work done in a more timely fashion, Kenton would demand large cash payments before releasing the vehicles. He even called police to complain about customers trying to reclaim their property and demanding refunds, Walruff said.

As the number of complaints connected with the business and the couple mounted, the cases were sent to Detective Brenda Garich, who determined the disputes weren't just civil matters and that criminal charges were warranted in some of them. She found customers who claimed the pair had refused to return their property. Some customers had received refund checks from Harris that had insufficient funds, while vendors supplying products to the couple also had gotten checks that bounced.

On July 9, police served a search warrant at the business and recovered items that had been reported stolen, Walruff said. They also collected other evidence, but weren't able to take the pair into custody.

Garich identified seven victims and expects more to come forward as people learn about the case. Anyone with information should call Garich at 774-2248, Walruff said.

Walruff also noted that this wasn't the first time Kenton had been suspected in crimes of deception.

Court records and news archives show that in 2000 Kenton was convicted of two counts of racketeering and sentenced to nearly two years in prison for scamming elderly homeowners through an unlicensed contracting business. He would pressure homeowners to hire him to spray a wood preservative that supposedly doubled as a natural pesticide or to install vapor barriers under houses or decks. He would get paid up front, then never effectively finish the work, prosecutors said at the time.

He also has several other theft and fraud convictions.

In 1984, he was reportedly the first person in Jackson County to be convicted of first-degree manslaughter in a traffic death. A passenger in his pickup died after the truck became airborne, then rolled on a stretch of Beeson Lane known as "Thrill Hill" in Talent, Mail Tribune archives show.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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