FARGO — A Fargo man is accused of trading his employer’s advertising space for more than $63,000 in luxury items and services for his own personal use, including a home sound system, mechanic work on exotic cars and spa treatments meant to freeze off fat.
Paul Hilt, 49, is charged with three felonies: misapplication of entrusted property, theft of services and theft by deception. He also faces a misdemeanor count of failing to pay income taxes.
According to Cass County District Court documents:
Hilt was working at Sky Digital Advertising in 2015 when his employer discovered he had traded ad space for about $1,000 worth of floral products, sparking a probe into Hilt’s work.
The owners of Sky Digital Advertising, an outdoor ad agency, had sold the business to its rival, Newman Signs, by January 2017. That’s when more instances of Hilt trading advertising for goods and services came to light.
Investigators found that Hilt traded advertising for products and services totaling more than $63,000, including:
• about $5,250 in lawn work done at his home
• about $2,600 for work on his personal vehicle, an Audi A6
• about $8,320 for cold sculpting, a spa treatment that involves freezing fat off the body
• $4,300 for new flooring at his home
• $8,700 in golf equipment
• $5,000 at a local jewelry store
• $1,900 at a Fargo hair school
• $2,200 for home sound equipment
• a $1,000 monthly service agreement that Hilt used to service his personal vehicles, including a BMW, Audi and his wife’s Porsche.
Police found that over the course of his employment, Hilt received more than $19,800 in services to his personal vehicles.
An investigator said in a police report that he requested a copy of Hilt’s income tax returns as he questioned whether Hilt had reported any of the goods and services as income.
Before police became involved, Hilt reportedly admitted trading advertising for products or services that he directly benefited from, court documents stated.
Hilt agreed to pay Sky Digital owners $10,000 as part of a civil agreement, although the company estimated Hilt owed closer to $15,000. Hilt has made payments per the agreement to Sky Digital as well as Newman Signs.
At least three Fargo businesses told investigators they chose not to be named as victims in the case because Hilt has agreed to repay them with a “new venture” he is working on, according to court documents.
Hilt’s first court appearance has not yet been scheduled. He does not have a listed phone number, and court records did not list an attorney for him.