An Idaho Falls business owner who stole a skid steer from one of his competitors was sentenced to prison last week for grand theft.
Ryan Phillip Hilliard, 34, was arrested August after one of his employees at Ultimate Construction told police Hilliard had instructed him to take the skid steer, falsely claiming it was owned by his construction company.
Hilliard’s sentencing came after a jury convicted him at trial. A previous trial ended when the jury did not reach a consensus about Hilliard’s guilt.
District Judge Bruce Pickett sentenced Hilliard to serve a minimum of 18 months in prison, with an indeterminate period of eight-and-a-half years. Pickett gave Hilliard credit for time he had already served.
The skid steer, which belonged to Bybee Excavation, had an estimated value between $25,000 and $30,000. The equipment was stolen while the company was working on a job at Woodking Drive.
Bybee Excavation contacted Western States Cat, a company that sells and repairs heavy excavation equipment, asking them to keep an eye out if the skid steer was ever brought in for repair.
Western States Cat contacted Bybee on May 3, 2019 after Hilliard brought the skid steer in for repairs. The vehicle had been heavily modified, with the loading bucket replaced with forks, paint added and the VIN plates removed. A worker identified the vehicle by its computer module.
Hilliard said he bought the skid steer from an employee in November 2018. He said he knew “something wasn’t right” about the vehicle, but claimed he did not know it was stolen.
When a detective talked to the employee, Raul Lomeli, he said Hilliard had instructed him to pick up the skid steer. Lomeli said he originally thought it belonged to Hilliard. When the vehicle was reported stolen, Hilliard offered Lomeli $5,000 in hush money to not report. Lomeli was later charged with compounding a felony for accepting the money.
In addition to time in prison, Hilliard was ordered to pay $2,745.50 in fines and fees. A motion for restitution has been filed in the case. Bybee Excavation told the Post Register in August that the stolen skid steer cost the company $1,200 a month to pay for a replacement.