Montana man pleads guilty in Derecho reparations program | USAO-NDIA

A Montana man who cheated a Cedar Rapids derecho victim out of more than $10,000 worth of insurance proceeds pleaded guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids. William Allen Hurlbut, Jr., 57, of Belgrade, Montana, was convicted of one count of mail fraud.

The derecho was a severe windstorm that swept through Cedar Rapids on August 10, 2020. The derecho caused widespread damage and long-term power outages. In Cedar Rapids alone, more than 1,000 homes became uninhabitable, while hundreds more homes and businesses sustained damage.

At the plea hearing and in a plea agreement, Hurlbut admitted that he came to Iowa after the derecho, pretending to be a handyman and doing business as “Trinity 321”. Hurlbut didn’t have a required contractor’s license, but got a cell phone number with a 319 area code to do business. Hurlbut has a previous federal felony conviction in Idaho for destroying government property.

In September 2020, Hurlbut promised his victim, a Cedar Rapids resident, that Hurlbut would repair the damage to the victim’s residence as soon as possible if the victim advanced funds to Hurlbut for this purpose. The derecho had caused more than $10,000 in damage to the victim’s residence, including damage to the roof and siding, to fences and to the interior of the house. Hurlbut’s victim was using a wheelchair due to a physical disability.

Instead of repairing the damage caused by the derecho to the victim’s residence, Hurlbut spent the insurance funds advanced to Hurlbut for the costs of repairing the gambling and personal items and expenses. Hurlbut made false statements to his victim about the status of the project and also made purchases at a home improvement store under the false pretense that he was buying materials to complete the project. Hurlbut would then send the items back for a cash refund, which Hurlbut then used for its own purposes. The investigation found that, over a two-week period in October 2020, Hurlbut spent at least $22,532.50 gambling at a casino in Iowa.

On January 25, 2021, Hurlburt had a tow truck tow the victim’s vehicle from the victim’s backyard to a junkyard without buying it from the victim or getting his permission. In February, Hurlbut convinced his victim to loan him $1,000 for room and board, which Hurlbut never repaid. Through March 2021, Hurlbut has done little to no work on the project despite the victim advancing Hurlbut over $10,000 for repairs.

Sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge CJ Williams will be set after a pre-sentence report is prepared. Hurlbut remains in the custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing. Hurlbut faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of probation after any imprisonment. Hurlbut must also return his victim in full.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and has been investigated by the Cedar Rapids Police Department. The Linn County District Attorney’s Office also participated in the investigation.

Information on the court file at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

The file number is 22-CR-16.

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