Second man charged in theft of construction equipment
IDAHO FALLS — A second man has been charged for his alleged involvement in the theft of a skid-steer loader.
Raul Lomeli, 33, is charged with compounding in a felony with Ryan Hilliard in the October 2018 theft of the loader. According to an affidavit of probable cause, Lomeli initially told police the money exchanged covered unpaid wages.
Investigators say Hilliard, the owner of Ultimate Construction, told his employee, Lomeli, to pick up “his” skid-steer in October. The equipment at the construction site actually belonged to another company, Bybee Excavation. The company told EastIdahoNews.com the Caterpillar Model 289C skid-steer, valued between $25,000 and $30,000, was key to the company’s work.
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 stolen in a federal database.
When speaking with detectives, Hilliard said he bought the skid-steer for $24,000 from Lomeli without knowing it was stolen. When police caught up with Lomeli, he said Hilliard had him pick up “his” skid-steer” and take it to Ultimate Construction’s shop. Text messages between the two showed them speaking about exchanging money for “the cat.”
Lomeli said he found Bybee Construction reported the skid-steer stolen on social media, which prompted him to confront Hilliard. During their conversation, Lomeli said Hilliard offered him $5,000 to stay quiet about the theft. Lomeli’s wife told police the text between her husband and Hilliard about exchanging money about “the cat” were in reference to another job.
Hilliard is charged with felony grand theft.
Just before his trial, Hilliard presented a bill of sale with the date of Oct. 26, 2018, which he said proves the purchase. Lomeli refuted the bill of sale, saying the signature on the paper is not his and appears forged.
The signature on the bill of sale was compared to the signature on Lomeli’s driver’s license, the signature on the check he endorsed and the signature he provided to the prosecution — none of which matched the bill of sale signature.
Hilliard’s trial resulted in a hung jury in December.
Lomeli was charged on Jan. 16.
If convicted of compounding in a felony, Lomeli could be ordered to spend up to five years in prison. He was released from jail to pre-trial services. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. A second jury trial for Hilliard is scheduled for the following day.