Owner of last HoJo's restaurant in court on sexual abuse charges

October 12, 2017 07:11 PM

Jonathan LaRock made headlines last fall for being the owner of the last standalone Howard Johnson's restaurant in the entire country. Now LaRock, 65, is charged with sexually abusing or harassing approximately 15 female employees at the restaurant.

LaRock was in town court Thursday morning after being arrested Wednesday. He was arraigned on seven charges, including counts of endangering the welfare of a child, felony sex abuse, and unlawful imprisonment.

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Deputies began the investigation earlier this month after one of his employees spoke up.

17-year-old Hayley Watkins couldn't even stand working at the Howard Johnson's for one day.  

"He eventually started getting more toward me. He started putting his hands on my hips and stomach, that's when it bothered me," said Watkins.

NewsChannel 13 interviewed Watkins after getting permission from her parents and grandmother.

Watkins says LaRock called her a "sexy babe" on day one. She called her grandmother for a ride home after a few hours of work and went to deputies the next day.

Then Watkins put up a Facebook post and other girls started coming forward.

Court papers lay out a creepy work environment.

Multiple underage girls say LaRock called them "sexy" and "baby" and would touch them as he went by.

The minors say he paid them $5 an hour under the table, and offered them more money if they took pills he had.

One girl says he often dry humped the counter. He was charged for showing a girl a nude photo.

LaRock's felony count comes from allegedly holding an 18-year-old woman from behind by her breasts while she struggled to get away.

LaRock started working at the Lake George restaurant as a dishwasher in the 70s. He eventually bought the place and re-opened it in 2015 and then in 2016 it became the last freestanding Howard Johnson's in the country.

LaRock was in jail on $15,000 cash bail.  He was represented by a public defender at the arraignment.  Deputies say the 15 victims range in age from 14 to 43.

Sheriff's Investigators say they are looking for more potential victims, including many foreign students who worked there during the summers. More charges are possible.

Call deputies at (518) 743-2500 with any information you think may help them in the case.


WNYT Staff

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