WARREN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
200 SKYLINE VISTA DRIVE · FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA 22630
Mark A. Butler, Sheriff
Warren County Sheriff’s Office arrests theft ring
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting a comprehensive investigation into a recent string of thefts of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and other crimes that have occurred throughout the county in the month of June 2021. According to Sheriff Butler, members of the Patrol, Investigations, and Special Problems and Drug Enforcement (SPADE) divisions have worked diligently with the public to piece together the individual clues and evidence that revealed the criminal enterprise operating in our county.
On 06/30/2021 at 12:14 AM, Deputy A. Stevens stopped a black 2001 Chevrolet van on Fellows Drive near Howellsville Road after the deputy recognized the driver, Troy Michael Brill from a recent contact as being unlicensed, and the vehicle was improperly registered. The traffic stop resulted in the arrest of Troy Michael Brill, age 21, of Front Royal for Possession of Narcotics (Schedule I or II drug), and driving on a revoked driver’s license.
The passenger, Christina S. Hottinger, age 40, of Front Royal was arrested and charged with several offenses. These included Possession of Narcotics (Schedule I or II drug), authorizing a person to operate vehicle while license is revoked or suspended, and two counts of violations of Family Offenses — Gross, wanton, or reckless care for child(ren). The later charges stemmed from Hottinger’s two minor children being present within the vehicle at the time the alleged criminal offenses were observed by Deputy Stevens. Hottinger has been released on bond pending a hearing. The children were turned over to the temporary custody of their family.
The black Chevrolet van driven by Brill and its attached, pull-behind automobile trailer was towed pursuant to his arrest, and not being lawfully titled or registered. The van and trailer were later linked to having been used in the commission of thefts of motorized vehicles.
On 06/30/2021, members of the Sheriff’s Office executed two search warrants related to this investigation. The first search warrant was served by members of the Sheriff’s Office at 03:29 PM on a single-family home on the 200 block of River Isle Lane, unincorporated Front Royal. The brief search was unsuccessful in locating Phillip C. Roberston, age 42, of Front Royal; however, Roberston was later arrested by members of the Sheriff’s Office SPADE Unit in Frederick County on an active warrant out of Warren County for Possession of a Schedule I or II drug, not related to this case.
A black Ford Ranger pickup truck was seized at the River Isle Lane residence because it had been identified as allegedly being used by suspects in this investigation during the commission of a crime. It had been previously established by law enforcement that the group was using a variety of vehicles to conduct surveillance of homes, and then later returning in a different vehicle to steal property.
Roberston was subsequently charged with six counts of Grand Larceny — $200 or more, not from a person, which was linked to this investigation. Roberston is currently held in the RSW Jail awaiting a hearing.
A search warrant at 724 Western Drive, unincorporated Front Royal yielded the recovery of evidence linked to the investigation of the thefts of ATVs, the recovery of stolen property, and two firearms and ammunition were also recovered. Charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and other criminal charges are pending. Unrelated to the search warrant, the Sheriff’s Office had received a request from a school counsellor for a check on wellbeing for two juveniles living in this residence. The juveniles were not on premise, and later located safe in the custody of family living elsewhere.
Major Driskill described this home as being the source of numerous citizen complaints and therefore more comprehensive investigative actions were taken during the search warrant execution. Based on the arrests of the residents, and the home being unoccupied, five canines were taken into protective custody by Animal Control Officers and transported to the local shelter. Major Driskill describes the conditions of the residence and property as being extremely unsafe, and unsanitary to the degree that the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office was contacted.
Fire Marshall Gerry Maiatico arrived, and assisted in the investigation. The preliminary findings were that the residence itself was structurally unsound, with exposed wiring, holes in the flooring and roof, and unsanitary conditions throughout. Major Driskill thanks Fire Marshal Maiatico for his quick response and assistance. The electric company was contacted and the electricity to the home temporarily disconnected to prevent a possible fire. Other county agencies, to include planning and zoning and child protective services are being contacted to further address the health and public safety concerns pertaining to this property.
Evidence developed during this ongoing investigation is believed to be linked to thefts of motor vehicles, mini-bikes, motorcycles and other property in several counties in Virginia, and West Virginia. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating with those law enforcement agencies, with additional charges anticipated. Investigations Supervisor Laura Nelson-Haas states her Office is still in the process of identifying some of the recovered property, and assistance from the public will be needed.
During this investigation, it was discovered that another criminal trend was emerging. It was determined that unattended motor vehicles in parking lots and rural areas throughout the county had been damaged by having their catalytic convertors removed. These items are appealing to persons who wish to make a quick dollar by selling them to a scrap yard.
Aside from being resold as replacement items for older vehicles, the catalytic converter or “cats” as they are referred to on the street, are also stolen for another reason. Inside the converters are precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum, which have high-dollar values. Catalytic converters have been recovered by the Sheriff’s Office and their original and ownership are being traced.
Major Driskill credits the success of this investigation to the excellent communication and coordination between the Sheriff’s Office and the community. Many of these crimes had not been discovered or reported due to homeowners being away on vacation or having second homes in other areas. Major Driskill extends his appreciation to those homeowners who had been looking out for each other in the true spirit of a Neighborhood Watch program. Major Driskill also acknowledged the professional investigative work conducted by members of both Patrol Shifts, who were very proactive in collecting information and evidence leading to the identification of the suspects. Major Driskill stated “this was outstanding law enforcement work done by our Patrol Deputies, and they deserve immense credit! Residents should know that they patrolled their streets, did surveillance and more. These Deputies went beyond expectations.”
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office reminds residents that their Community Policing Unit, led by Sergeant Cindy Burke and Lieutenant Robbie Seal are actively working to enhance and expand the Neighborhood Watch program and interested homeowners’ associations should contact them.
Finally, residents are reminded to check on unattended rural property to ensure the safety of their property and vehicles. If anything is found missing or damaged in the county, please report this by calling the Warren County Emergency Communications Center (9–1‑1) or if out of the area, call (540) 635‑4128. Persons having information regarding this investigation are asked to contact WCSO Investigator Kristin Hajduk at (540) 635‑4128.
Approved for release on 07/04/2021: Major J. A. Driskill