A successful businessman and former chair of the Sioux County Republican Party will go to prison as part of a plea bargain to sexual abuse charges. Pizza Ranch co-founder and former Sioux County treasurer Lawrence Vander Esch agreed to plead guilty to four counts of third-degree sexual abuse in connection with charges that he had inappropriate contact with teenage boys. The judge praised the investigation by the D-C-I and Sioux County Sheriff’s department and also lauded the young witnesses for their courage and willingness to testify. Court papers show Vander Esch told the boys he was doing a scientific study and would have to touch them to collect semen samples. County attorneys in Marion and Linn Counties agreed not to prosecute cases uncovered there, as part of the plea that will send Vander Esch to prison for up to forty years. Once released, he’ll have to register as a sexual offender.
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