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Vander Esch Guilty of Sexual Abuse

August 20, 2001, 11:05 PM

Vander Esch Guilty of Sexual Abuse

The man who has given many KELOLAND communities the taste of pizza in their small towns won't get a taste of freedom for a long time.

Lawrence Vander Esch, the co-founder of the Iowa-based Pizza Ranch chain, will be in prison for ten years because he admits to sexually abusing some of his teen-age, boy employees.

Vander Esch's guilty plea covers three boys he molested. Now authorities think there was a long line of other victims dating back 19 years, which is almost to the start of his Pizza Ranch chain.
The prosecutor has heard from 15 other employees who say they were abused by Vander Esch. The Sioux County Attorney couldn't prosecute those cases because they were beyond the three-year statute of limitations.

In all cases Vander Esch used the same story, telling the boys he was collecting semen samples for a University of Iowa study. He touched the boys to collect the sample, telling them he had to do it to ensure a proper sample. Sometimes he collected the samples in his restaurants; other times he collected them in a car. He even promised them 50 to 100 dollars per sample but never delivered, telling them their sperm counts weren't high enough.

It wasn't the boys but their parents who brought the case to authorities. They feared nothing would happen because of Vander Esch's high standing in the Orange City area. Before being a successful businessman, he was the Sioux County treasurer. He was also on a Christian school's board, and he headed up the local Republican party. In court Monday, the prosecutor says Vander Esch was "very solemn".

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