Ryan Hilliard

Hilliard

An Idaho Falls man who reportedly stole a skid-steer loader from a construction company was arraigned Monday.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Ryan Phillip Hilliard, 33, the owner of Ultimate Construction, reportedly told an employee to pick up the skid-steer in October, telling the employee it belonged to him. The skid-steer actually belonged to Bybee Excavation in Rexburg.

The skid-steer had an estimated value of $25,000 to $30,000. Bybee Excavation was working on a job at Woodking Drive when the skid-steer went missing.

A representative of Bybee Excavation contacted Western States Cat, a company that sells and repairs heavy industrial vehicles, asking them to report if the stolen vehicle was ever brought in for repairs.

Western States contacted Bybee on May 3 after the vehicle was brought in by Hilliard in Idaho Falls. A technician observed that the skid-steer had been repainted and the VIN plates had been removed. The technician identified the vehicle by its computer module.

According to the police report, the vehicle had been modified, with the loading bucket removed and forks added for moving pallets.

The detective spoke to Hilliard when he arrived to meet with his parole officer. Hilliard told the detective he had purchased the skid-steer in November from an employee. Hilliard showed detectives messages from the man asking him for money for the “cat” to cover his rent. He told the detective he knew something “wasn’t right” with the skid-steer, but did not know it was stolen.

Later in the interview, Hilliard said he learned a skid-steer was stolen from Bybee Excavation, but was afraid to report it because of his parole. Hilliard said he decided to hope it was a different vehicle, but that he knew it was the same in the back of his mind. He refused to take a polygraph examination when asked by the detective.

Hilliard’s criminal history includes multiple drug charges in Twin Falls County, including two felony charges for delivery. It was not immediately clear what charge he was on parole for.

The detective contacted the alleged seller, who said the message and references to “the cat” were about wages Hilliard owed him and a fencing job.

The employee then told detectives Hilliard had told him to pick up the skid-steer, and, at the time, he believed it belonged to Hilliard. The employee later learned it belonged to Bybee.

According to the police report, Hilliard offered the employee $5,000 to stay silent when the man confronted Hilliard about the skid-steer. The employee told detectives his text messages to Hilliard were about the hush money, not payment for the skid-steer itself.

Greg Bybee, owner of Bybee Excavation, said the loss of equipment cost his company $1,200 a month to pay for a replacement.

Hilliard was charged with grand theft by receiving, possessing or disposing of stolen property, punishable with up to 14 years in prison.

The skid-steer was returned to Bybee Excavation. Hilliard and Ultimate Construction did not return a request for comment. Hilliard was released from jail after posting a $15,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 4 in the Bonneville County Courthouse.

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.