Press Release — ATV Thefts — 07/04/2021

WARREN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

200 SKYLINE VISTA DRIVE · FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA 22630

Mark A. But­ler, Sher­iff

PRESS RELEASE

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