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Montana man sent to prison for bilking disabled Iowa derecho victim out of thousands of dollars

CEDAR RAPIDS – A Montana man who cheated a Cedar Rapids derecho victim out of more than $15,000 was sentenced June 30, 2022, in federal court in Iowa. William Allen Hurlbut, Jr., age 57, from Belgrade, Montana, received his sentence after a February 23, 2022 guilty plea to 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, over 1,000 housing units were rendered unlivable, while hundreds of additional homes and businesses suffered damage.

In a plea agreement, and at his plea and sentencing hearings, Hurlbut admitted he came to Iowa after the derecho, professing to be a handyman and doing business as “Trinity 321.” Hurlbut lacked a required contractor license but obtained a cell phone number with a local 319 area code to conduct business. Hurlbut has 16 prior adult convictions, including a prior federal felony conviction in Idaho for destruction of government property.

In September 2020, Hurlbut promised his victim, a Cedar Rapids resident, that Hurlbut would fix damage to the victim’s residence as soon as possible if the victim advanced funds to him for that purpose. The derecho had caused more than $10,000 worth of damage to the victim’s residence, including damage to the roof and the siding, fences, and the interior of the home. Hurlbut’s victim was using a wheelchair on account of physical disabilities.

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

On January 25, 2021, Hurlbut had a tow truck tow the victim’s vehicle from the victim’s backyard to a junkyard without purchasing it from the victim or getting his permission. In February, Hurlbut convinced his victim to loan him $1,000 for lodging and food, which Hurlbut never repaid. Through March 2021, Hurlbut performed little to no work on the project despite the fact that the victim had advanced more than $10,000 to Hurlbut for the repairs.

Hurlbut was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams. Hurlbut was sentenced to 14 months and 12 days imprisonment, which represented the amount of time he has spent in federal and state custody since his arrest, and up to 180 days in a halfway house upon his release. He was ordered to make $15,892.79 in restitution to his victim. He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Hurlbut is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he is released to the halfway house.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

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