As many homeowners across eastern Iowa continue to get repairs made to their homes following the derecho more than eight months ago, the Cedar Rapids Police Department (CRPD) has announced an arrest in what they call a "derecho repair scam."

According to a media release from the CRPD, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office arrested 56-year-old William A. Hurlbut of Belgrade, Montana Monday night, April 19. A warrant for his arrest had been issued last Friday, April 16, after a charge of First Degree Theft was issued by the Linn County Attorney's Office. Hurlbut is accused of stealing almost $20,000 from a 56-year-old Cedar Rapids man.

Linn County Jail
Linn County Jail

The local man filed a report with Cedar Rapids Police on December 1, 2020. He told police that he'd signed a contract with Hurlbut nearly three months before and that Hurlbut was supposed to repair the siding and roof of his home on the city's southeast side.

The release says that just two days after signing the contract, the man paid Hurlbut nearly $5,300 in cash as a down payment for the work. Ten days later, on September 24, 2020, the victim says he gave Hurlbut another $4,600 in cash, again as a down payment. Over about the next six weeks, the victim allegedly reached out to Hurlbut about when the work would begin numerous times and received a variety of excuses for the delay.

Cedar Rapids Police also say that the victim gave Hurlbut a blank check that was made out to a hardware store, to purchase necessary repair items. Authorities allege Hurlbut bought some personal items with some money and was supposed to have scheduled dates to have other repair items delivered to the home of the victim. Nothing was ever delivered. Cedar Rapids Police believe Hurlbut also returned some items, getting either store credit or cash.

Since September, police say Hurlbut had not gotten a building permit for the work, no repairs have been made, and no materials were ever delivered to the victim's home. Those factors led to the warrant and Hurlbut's arrest on the First Degree Theft charge.

The Iowa Attorney General's Office offers these warnings about possible strategies from contractors. If you hear one of these "stories," just say 'no.' Additional tips are available here.

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