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Suspect Arrested for Theft as Part of Derecho Repair Scam

Suspect Arrested for Theft as Part of Derecho Repair Scam

April 20, 2021

The Cedar Rapids Police Department, in cooperation with the Linn County Attorney’s Office, had a warrant issued for an individual accused of stealing almost $20,000 from a derecho storm victim.  William Allen Hurlbut, DOB/10-03-1964, age 56, of Belgrade, Montana was arrested for Theft-1st Degree last night by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.  A warrant had been issued for his arrest on April 16, 2021. 

On December 1, 2020, the 56-year old male victim filed a theft report with the Cedar Rapids Police Department.  According to the victim, he signed a contract with Hurlbut on September 12, 2020 with the agreement that Hurlbut would repair the victim’s home in southeast Cedar Rapids that needed roof and siding repairs. 

On September 14, 2020, the victim provided Hurlbut $5,287 in cash as a down payment.  On September 24, 2020, the victim provided an additional $4,600 in cash as an additional down payment.  Between the end of September and through the beginning of November, the victim contacted Hurlbut several times asking when the work would begin.  Hurlbut allegedly gave several excuses for not beginning the repairs. 

During the investigation into this case, it was determined that the victim had also provided a blank check made out to a hardware store that was to be used to purchase roofing and siding materials.  However, Hurlbut is accused of purchasing some personal items with a portion of the check amount.  In addition, Hurlbut allegedly scheduled delivery dates for the other materials to be delivered to the victim’s home, but the items were never delivered.  Hurlbut allegedly returned some items for cash or store credit. 

The Police Department consulted with the Linn County Attorney’s Office and it was determined that Hurlbut should be charged with Theft-1st Degree.  Over the past six months, no repairs were made and no materials were delivered.   Further, no building permits were obtained.  

Tips to Avoid Contractor Scams

 The Police Department, in cooperation with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, offers the following recommendations: 

  • Be wary of contractors who show up at your door. If at all possible, deal with an established and reputable local business. Avoid the hard sell.  A reputable company should always be willing to allow a customer time to think about an offer before having to commit to a contract or payment.
  • Check out and interview contractors before you sign a contract or pay any money. Request local references and contact them, and research their ratings with the Better Business Bureau and other sites.
  • Get several written estimates, choose the best, and get a contract in writing.  Be sure to read and understand the contract. Before work begins, agree on a written contract detailing terms including the work to be done, the brand and/or the specifications of the materials to be used, the price, who is responsible for permits, and that all change orders must be in writing. Put start and completion dates in writing, and the remedies if the contractor fails to meet them. For example, the contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.
  • Understand your insurance: If you’re filing an insurance claim to cover the costs of damages, negotiate the details with your insurance company directly and not through a contractor. Make sure your insurance provider will cover the cost of repairs before you sign a contract.
  • Explore financing options: It’s usually safer and a better deal to obtain financing through your local bank or credit union, rather than a contractor.
  • Know your right to cancel: If you sign a contract somewhere other than the contractor's regular place of business, such as at your home, you have three business days to cancel the contract without penalty.
  • Avoid paying large sums or the entire job up front.  If you need to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver" in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor.
  • Write down a license plate number and vehicle description, or take a picture of the vehicle and plate.  Keep this for your records. 

To report a dishonest contractor, please contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-777-4590 or 1-515-281-5926, or www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov.

 

Disclaimer:  Any arrest and complaint information included above is based on the legal conclusion that, as with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

 

 

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