Local Restaurant Owner Arrested for Multiple Sexual Assaults After Investigation

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– A joint investigation conducted by the Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri, Lawrence Township Police Chief Christopher Longo, and Trenton Police Director Steve Wilson has culminated in the arrest of a local restaurant owner on charges of multiple sexual assaults in Mercer County. Gerald Araya, a 44-year-old resident of Ewing, NJ, was apprehended in Trenton on Wednesday afternoon. He faces a total of five counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual assault, one count of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child. The prosecutor’s office has taken the necessary steps to detain Araya until his trial.

The arrest of Araya followed the execution of search warrants on Wednesday afternoon at his residence in Ewing Township and three establishments he owns and operates in Trenton: El Catador Lounge Restaurant on New York Avenue, Dubai Restaurant & Lounge on New York Avenue, and Mill Hill Restaurant & Lounge on South Broad Street. Without incident, Araya was taken into custody outside of his Mill Hill Restaurant & Lounge.

The investigation was initiated when a young woman approached the Trenton police last month to report a sexual assault, leading to a collaborative effort with the MCPO Special Victims Unit. The victim recounted meeting Araya during a job interview at Dubai Restaurant & Lounge, after which she was coerced to visit his other establishments in Trenton. Subsequently, the victim found herself at a bar in Trenton, where Araya insisted she sample the drinks he was preparing. Feeling unwell, the victim expressed her desire to return home, only to regain consciousness in a room, unclothed, and being sexually assaulted by Araya at a motel in Lawrence Township while in a state of incapacitation.

Through extensive and meticulous investigative work by the MCPO SVU, the TPD, and the LTPD, detectives managed to identify three additional victims who had previously worked for Araya. Prosecutor Onofri praised the collaborative nature of the investigation, emphasizing the crucial role played by the lead detectives and the courageous women who came forward to share their experiences and assist in bringing Araya to justice. Director Wilson acknowledged the resilience of the victims and commended the unwavering dedication of the investigative personnel, particularly singling out Trenton Police SVU Detective Lizmary Rivera and Trenton Police ABC Detective Cathiria Colon for their relentless efforts.

Chief Longo echoed the sentiments, highlighting the significance of the partnership between the Lawrence Township Police Department, the Trenton Police Department, and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office in ensuring justice for the victims of sexual assault. Prosecutor Onofri extended his gratitude to all the individuals and agencies involved in the investigation, recognizing their commitment to upholding the law and safeguarding the community.

As the investigation continues, individuals with pertinent information are urged to contact the prosecutor’s SVU. It is imperative to remember that despite the charges brought against him, Gerald Araya is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. The severity of the charges he faces underscores the gravity of the situation, with first-degree crimes carrying a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and fines up to $200,000, while second-degree offenses entail imprisonment for five to 10 years and fines up to $150,000. Third-degree charges may result in three to five years in prison with fines up to $15,000, and fourth-degree charges carry a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.

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