While a $17 million civil lawsuit filed by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority against its former director Jennifer McDonald, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEthron, businessmen Curt Tran, Donnie Poe and Justin Appleton, and three businesses is slowly moving through the judicial system, a criminal investigation ramped up Tuesday when federal authorities got involved.
FBI agents along with Virginia State Police spent several hours at the EDA building on Tuesday. They would not provide any details to media, but they were seen carrying boxes out of the building.
The lawsuit, based on a special audit, alleges that millions of dollars have been misappropriated. The state police have been conducting an investigation since last year, and now a special grand jury has been impaneled to investigate any criminal activity. Those jurors have been tasked with looking at and beyond the EDA during their probe, including the town of Front Royal, Warren County, the Sheriff's Office, Warren County Public Schools, elected or appointed officials and anyone else who may be linked to the investigation.
The deeper this investigation goes, the more collateral damage is discovered and the more cleanup and costs are incurred. The latest? We reported Wednesday that Front Royal may have to pay back a $650,000 Virginia Department of Transportation grant used for phase one of the West Main Street extension project. The grant was predicated on the opening of the ITFederal building and its workforce of 600 people, which we learned recently is not going to happen. ITFederal, which is named in the EDA lawsuit, or another company would have to invest $3.25 million by December 2021 to keep the town from having to return the grant money.
How many more projects, people and businesses will be impacted, and how much more money is this going to cost town and county taxpayers?