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Local contractor arrested after police say he had stolen construction equipment

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Ryan Phillip Hilliard | Bonneville County Jail

IDAHO FALLS — Police arrested an Idaho Falls contractor after they say he stole a skid-steer loader.

Ryan Phillip Hilliard, 33, owner of Ultimate Construction, told his employee to pick up “his” skid-steer in October, according to court documents. The skid-steer taken from the job site in Idaho Falls belonged to another company, Bybee Excavation.

After the equipment was stolen, Bybee Excavation contacted EastIdahoNews.com for help. Surveillance video captured a white pickup truck visiting the job site around the time of the theft.

The Caterpillar Model 289C skid-steer, valued between $25,000 and $30,000, was key to the company’s work. Jessica Phillips, a spokeswoman for Bybee Excavation, said the theft forced the company to pay $1,200 a month for a new piece of equipment.

In May, Western States CAT called Bybee Excavation saying Hilliard contacted them to perform service on a skid-steer, the same model as the one stolen. Mechanics with Western States noticed the VIN plates were removed, and the skid-steer had been repainted. When Western States ran a diagnostic check, the skid-steer showed up as the stolen one in a federal database.

Investigators spoke with laborers at an Ultimate Construction job site and found the skid-steer Western States had recently serviced. The workers told detectives Hilliard owned the skid-steer, which was used on a roofing project at a local church.

The detectives spoke with Hilliard at a meeting with his parole officer about the stolen skid-steer construction crews said was his. (Hilliard is on parole until February 2020 for a possession of a controlled substance charge out of Twin Falls County.) In the interview, Hilliard told police he bought the skid-steer for $24,000 from an employee without knowing it was stolen.

Image pulled from surveillance video of the truck police suspect is involved with stealing a skid-steer. | Courtesy Bybee Excavation

Police found the employee Hilliard said he bought the stolen skid-steer from. The employee told detectives Hilliard told him pick up “his” equipment and bring it Ultimate Construction’s shop. The employee told investigators he found the keys in the skid-steer, loaded it onto the trailer and drove away.

The employee found Bybee Construction reported the skid-steer stolen on social media, which prompted him to confront Hilliard. During their conversation, the employee said Hilliard offered him $5,000 to stay quiet, but the employee never received the money.

According to court documents, text messages exchanged between Hilliard and the employee about exchanging money about “the cat” were in reference to another job, the employee told detectives. EastIdahoNews.com is not naming the employee since he hasn’t been charged in connection to the theft.

Police arrested Hilliard on Friday, and he posted $15,000 bond. But Tuesday afternoon authorities arrested Hilliard again for violating parole. He is expected to appear in court Sept. 4 for a preliminary hearing.

During interviews with police, Hilliard stuck with his story that he didn’t take the skid-steer but only bought it. He said he did see the reports of the stolen skid-steer and knew in the back of his mind it was stolen.

“It has ruined our overall trust that we used to have with the public here in Idaho Falls,” said Phillips, the Bybee Excavation spokeswoman. “We are constantly having to think of ways to protect our equipment and tools, the things that put food on the tables for our families.”

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