Contractor sent to prison for theft of expensive equipment
IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls contractor has been sent to prison after a second jury found him guilty of felony grand theft.
The owner of Ultimate Construction, 34-year-old Ryan Phillip Hilliard, was convicted following his second trial in February. In December the first trial resulted in a hung jury.
On Tuesday, District Judge Bruce Pickett sentenced Hilliard to spend between 18 months and 10 years in prison.
Police reports show Hilliard ordered his employee, Raul Lomeli, to pick up “his” skid-steer, which actually belonged to Bybee Construction — from a job site in Oct. 2018.
The company had no idea where the equipment went and shared their story with EastIdahoNews.com. Later, when Hilliard tried having maintenance performed on the stolen equipment, mechanics discovered it stolen and contacted Bybee Construction.
Bybee construction told EastIdahoNews.com the skid steer was valued at between $25,000 and $30,000.
In an interview with detectives, Hilliard told police he bought the equipment for $24,000 from Lomeli, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Investigators caught up with Lomeli, who 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 equipment.
Lomeli told investigators he noticed a post on social media about the stolen skid-steer, leading him to confront Hilliard. During the confrontation, Lomeli claims Hilliard offered him $5,000 to stay quiet about the theft.
Just before the December trial, Hilliard presented a bill of sale dated Oct. 26, 2018. On the bill of sale is a signature with Lomeli’s name, but the employee said the signature is not his and appears forged.
During the trial, 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.
Prosecutors charged Lomeli on Jan. 16 with compounding a felony. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 22. If convicted, he could be ordered to spend up to five years in prison.
In addition to the prison time, court records indicate Pickett ordered Hilliard to pay $2,745.50 in fees and fines.