Philomath Police said these images of custom woodworking projects were among those used in advertisements allegedly by Gale Phillips. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A local man who started a woodworking business in Philomath two years ago has allegedly taken more than 35 customers on a ride by charging deposits on custom jobs and then never doing any of the work.

Now, Philomath Police would like to know if anyone else out there wants to report a similar experience with Razorback Woodworking, a business owned by 54-year-old Gale T. Phillips. According to an investigation, the overwhelming majority of his customers also never received refunds of their deposits — a number that collectively adds up to more than $15,000.

Philomath Police Officer Jacob Coon, the investigator on the case, said that so far, victims are all describing approximately the same story.

“Basically, he was posting that he builds things such as a rustic farmhouse dining table and benches and kitchen islands and entertainment centers — high-finish type stuff,” Coon said. “And he’s posting these really nice-looking pictures of things and his ads read something similar to ‘I custom build these and you choose dimensions, paint and finish.’ And it looked really nice and he’s got real reasonable prices and so people were jumping on it.”

Coon said the victims were charged a 50% deposit before he would start on a project to pay for needed materials. Invoices were issued, time frames for the job were set up and Phillips even had a woodshop that customers could see next to his residence on Houser Lane.

As the weeks went by, however, Phillips allegedly would come up with excuses for delays — including health issues that required days in the hospital — until it got to the point that he would cut off communication entirely, Coon said.

Coon said those images included in the online advertising were allegedly taken from other websites.

“It’s really frustrating because there are a lot of really good people out there doing work as a home-based business that are legitimate, hard-working people and this case really put a bad taste in people’s mouths about that home-based business-type person,” Coon said. “That’s really unfortunate.”

Victims so far extend from well beyond Philomath to the coast, Redmond, Eugene, Springfied, Creswell, Roseburg and up into Washington, Coon said.

“If there are other victims that want to reach out and say, ‘hey, I’m also a victim,’ I would imagine that’s going to happen and we’ll take their information as well,” Coon said.

Phillips registered Razorback Woodworking as a business entity with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office in May 2020. The business was described as “custom woodworking,” including “building tables, cutting boards, outdoor furniture, anything that a customer can want that can be handmade.”

A few complaints in small claims court have been filed in connection with Phillips’ business practices. Earlier this month, an Albany man filed a complaint in small claims court against Phillips to try to recover $150 he put down toward the construction of a dog kennel. According to the complaint, the victim “made contact with the defendant several times over the next few months to check the progress of the build. The defendant provided me with excuse after excuse why the project was not done.”

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office attempted to serve Phillips with the complaint but he had moved out of the Philomath residence he was renting.

Last year, a man from Camas, Washington, filed a claim after losing a down payment of $870 that he had put down for the construction of a custom dining table. Said this victim, “After six weeks, I contacted him and received excuses as to why it wasn’t completed, and eventually, the defendant ceased all contact with me.”

Phillips has a history of various other cases over the years that have gone through the courts in Lincoln and Benton counties, several involving debts to creditors.

As for any charges against Phillips, Philomath Police Chief Ken Rueben said those are pending.

Those who believe they could be a victim are asked to contact Coon at the Philomath Police Department at 541-929-6911 or jacob.coon@philomathoregon.gov.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.