December 5, 2022

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Contractor who defrauded Iowa derecho victim out of more than $10,000 pleads guilty

A Montana man who prosecutors say stole more than $10,000 from a Cedar Rapids derecho victim under the guise of being a handyman has been convicted of mail fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa said in a Feb. 23 news release that William Allen Hurlbut Jr., 57, came to Iowa after the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho caused widespread devastation and began doing repair work as Trinity 321.

Shortly after arriving in Iowa, it said, Hurlbut met a disabled resident whose home needed more than $10,000 in repairs and told the resident he could fix the damage if he was advanced the necessary funds. Hurlbut did not have a contractor license but had obtained a local cell phone number, the release said.

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It said Hurlbut spent the money on gambling and other expenses, running up a bill of more than $22,000 at an Iowa casino in October 2020.

Over at least six months, Hurlbut did little to no work on the property, using the funds advanced to him to buy building materials that he said he needed for the project, then returned, keeping the cash refunds, the news release said. It said he also had the victim’s vehicle towed to a junkyard without permission and persuaded the customer in February 2021 to loan him $1,000 for lodging and food, which he never repaid.

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Hurlbut, who awaits sentencing under a plea agreement, remains in custody, the release said. It said he faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and must make full restitution to this victim.

Hurlburt could not be reached for comment.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s website offers advice about how to avoid being scammed on home repairs here.

Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or [email protected] Follower her on Twitter at @sarahkayleblanc

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Man pleads guilty to theft of more than $10K from Iowa derecho victim