Kenai man arrested in snowmachine theft

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 5:43pm
  • News

While responding to a disturbance at Soldotna High School Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers located a Kenai man with a snowmachine that was reported stolen from a dealership in October.

Austin Hibbert, 18, was arrested on six charges – first-degree vehicle theft, second-degree theft, removal of identification marks, tampering with physical evidence, third-degree criminal mischief and first-degree criminal trespass. The first five charges are class C felonies and if convicted the penalty is a maximum five years in prison and up to $50,000 fine on each count.

A 2015 Polaris Assault 800 snowmachine valued at $12,500 was reported stolen from Peninsula Powersports in Soldotna on Oct. 27. An investigation by troopers revealed the snowmachine was “lifted over the fence with the help of a skid-steer loader,” according to a trooper affidavit filed in Kenai Court on Dec. 10.

Peninsula Powersports, a Polaris snowmachine dealership located near Mile 3 of the Kenai Spur Highway, stores its snowmachines behind a 12-foot high chain link barbed-wire fence. Owner Nate Titus said they were in the middle of changing their security system – which was ready to be installed on a Monday – when the sled was stolen from the property sometime over the weekend.

“We were one day late,” Titus said.

Troopers found evidence of the theft approximately three miles away on a dead end road and facts indicated Hibbert was a suspect in the theft, according to the report.

On Tuesday, troopers allege Hibbert assaulted a staff member at Soldotna High School and left the scene in a white 2005 Chevy pickup. Hibbert was pulled over by a trooper on Kobuk Street and found to be in possession of the snowmachine in the back of his truck, according to the report.

Trooper Casey Hershberger with the Criminal Suppression Detail arrived on scene to look at the snowmachine and noticed it had been spray-painted black and the VIN number was missing. Hibbert told troopers the Polaris had been wrecked and rebuilt by the person he purchased it from, a Wasilla man he had met on Craigslist. Hibbert provided a bill of sale with the transaction date of May 24, 2014, according to the report.

In the report Hershberger said he noticed inconsistencies in Hibbert’s statements. Hershberger called the Polaris dealership and was provided with an engine serial number, which matched the number on the certificate of origin for the stolen snowmachine.

Hibbert then admitted stealing the Polaris from Peninsula Powersports by using their skid-steer loader from inside the fence. He also scratched off the VIN number and indicated he altered the sled by damaging it to avoid getting caught. The damage to the Polaris was estimated at more than $750, according to the report. The snowmachine was seized from the scene pending further investigation and Hibbert’s truck was released to a family member.

Hibbert was arraigned in Kenai District Court Wednesday. He is currently jailed at Wildwood Pretrial Facility. His next court date is Dec. 19 in Kenai.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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