‘Helltown’ all over again

Front Royal government entities, officials immersed in scandals

Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe was indicted by a Warren County grand jury last week for soliciting prostitution. Taber Andrew Bain via flickr

Around the time it was incorporated in 1788, the well-known nickname for Front Royal was “Helltown.” Given all the scandals now swirling around our neighbor over the mountain, the unflattering moniker suits the town all over again.

Consider Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe was indicted by a Warren County grand jury last week for soliciting prostitution. His Honor, it is alleged, paid a visit to a local massage parlor in 2018 and asked for more than a hot stone treatment.

The mayor, who is resigning effective next Thursday, says at least he hasn’t murdered anybody, hasn’t written a bad check, hasn’t shoplifted, hasn’t messed with drugs, and furthermore hasn’t received a loan from Front Royal’s former economic development director, Jennifer McDonald.

Which is another scandal entirely.

McDonald has admitted in recent days that she could personally be held liable for $2.7 million missing from the coffers of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

If not Front Royal’s mayor, local government entities being linked to the McDonald scandal include but are not limited to the Town of Front Royal, the County of Warren, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Public Schools, and the EDA itself.

Each entity is said to be under a special grand jury investigation launched last month surrounding potential widespread criminal activity that includes “alleged misfeasance and malfeasance including the embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds.”

How much money?

The EDA, after reviewing the findings of a separate Virginia State Police probe, recently filed a $17 million lawsuit against eight Front Royal area individuals and one LLC, claiming misappropriation of the authority’s funds.

On the same day that suit was filed, the two longest serving EDA board members resigned — one of them Warren County Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher.

It’s also been revealed that McDonald owned with Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron a company named DaBoyz LLC. In 2016, according to the filing, DaBoyz purchased a property worth more than a half-million dollars — but only after $2 million was wired from the EDA to a bank account that was then  paid to DaBoyz.

If all this isn’t enough, it’s been revealed this week that McDonald lost another $753,207 while gambling at nearby Hollywood Casino.

About John McCaslin 449 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.


  1. I am so embarrassed to live in this town anymore. It breaks my heart that when my children grow older, someone will ask ” where are you from?” My child will reply Front Royal. And the first thing that may pop into the other person head is embezzling and prostitution I want to sale and move away.

  2. Many will say this article only scratches the surface. I trust that is because the writer is being a cautious journalist and abiding by the strict ethics that govern his trade. But I also hope he is digging further and will report on more soon. Far be it from me to propagate what is currently indistinguishable from unsubstantiated rumor, but I believe this matter has escalated well beyond just civil lawsuits.

  3. The tip of the icebreg. It’s long known all this,was going on. It’s so thick a,sinkhole has opened up. Courts police, accusatiind,against innocent citizens. When will this end.

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