Denture maker accused of bilking clients of $150K
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
August 1, 2008 · Updated 7:00 PM
Police say the owner of Oak Harbor Denture Center bilked clients in Island and Skagit counties of $150,000 or more.
Detective Carl Seim of Oak Harbor Police said victims reported paying Kevin Kowalski for dentures they never received or they received dentures that simply didn’t fit. In some cases, clients may have received dirty, used dentures. Several of the clients were unable to eat for months and lost dramatic amounts of weight.
In part of a joint investigation, the Oak Harbor Police and the state Attorney General’s Office arrested Kowalski, a 38-year-old Mount Vernon resident, on suspicion of first-degree theft and Medicaid fraud.
Police continue to look for more people who may have been ripped off by the denture maker. Victims should call Seim at 279-4621.
Seim said the victims each lost between $1,000 and $2,600. He doesn’t know where all the money went, but investigators have their suspicions.
“A lot of the clients I interviewed suspected he was high on drugs,” the detective said.
So far, Seim has received complaints from more than 30 victims on the island, but he said there may be many more. Kowalski also had an office in Mount Vernon, where Seim said dozens upon dozens of victims have been identified.
On June 27, the police assisted with executing a search warrant on a room at the Coachman Inn, where Kowalski was staying with boxes of paperwork and dentures.
“He got evicted from his office in Oak Harbor and moved everything into the hotel room,” Seim said, adding that he’s unsure whether the bank took Kowalski’s Mount Vernon home. “He was using the hotel room as a storage facility and living there at the same time. Actually, it was pretty filthy.”
Investigators seized dental and administrative records, as well as some of the prosthetic teeth. They arrested Kowalski.
Kowalksi couldn’t be reached for comment because his phone number was disconnected.
According to Seim, Kowalski had a rather suspicious way of doing business. He would demand cash, or sometimes checks, for payment. He wanted half the money, or sometimes all of it, up front.
For those who received dentures, Seim said they often didn’t fit.
“When they went back to have them realigned, he would charge them $250,” he said. “They still wouldn’t fit and eventually he’d get frustrated and say there was nothing he could do.”
The dentures were so bad, the detectives said, that many of the clients simply couldn’t eat. Some of them lost up to 60 pounds.
Seim said a frail 80-year-old woman purchased bad dentures from Kowalski a few years ago. They didn’t fit right and she ended up losing 20 pounds, down to 97 pounds.
Kowalski often took a client’s old dentures to use as a mold. Some of the victims, Seim said, believe that Kowalski gave them other people’s used dentures.
“One client said it looked dirty,” he said.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.