Student’s Father Charged in Alleged Sex Cult at Sarah Lawrence College in New York

February 11, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020
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A New York man was charged for allegedly targeting a group of students at Sarah Lawrence College for nearly a decade in an indictment released on Feb. 11.

Lawrence Ray, the father of a student at the college, lived with some of the victims in on-campus housing and later at locations in the New York City borough of Manhattan, and in the town of Pinehurst, North Carolina, among other places.

Ray, from in or about 2010, “subjected the victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse,” the indictment states.

The victims were “girls and boys young enough to be his children,” Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference on Feb. 11.

“At the core of Ray’s criminal conduct was his ability to psychologically control his young victims, most of whom were in college when the scheme began.”

Ray allegedly extracted false confessions from at least seven victims who confessed to causing harm and damage to Ray, his relatives, and other associates. Ray’s threats included choking a male victim until he passed out, holding a knife to a male victim’s throat, and grabbing a female victim by her head until shoving her to the ground.

Ray used the false confessions to extort money from the victims, to force some of them to perform unpaid manual labor, and to force one of the female victims to engage in prostitution for Ray’s financial benefit, according to the indictment.

Because the students couldn’t afford payments Ray demanded they give him, they were directed to get money from the parents and others, Berman said. Some opened lines of credit or solicited contributions from acquaintances while others received hundreds of thousands from family members. One female victim worked as a prostitute for four years and gave most of the proceeds to Ray.

Ray was charged with sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor, and other offenses.

Ray was in jail for security fraud. In 2010, after being released, authorities said, he moved into his daughter’s dorm room on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville along with her male and female roommates.

After the move, Ray allegedly started so-called therapy sessions with some of the roommates, presenting himself as a wise, older figure who could help the students with some of their issues.

“He did all of our cleaning and definitely took on the dad role in the house in a big way,” Juli Anna, one of the roommates, told The Cut.

During the sessions, Ray “learned intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities, and mental health struggles under the pretense of helping them.” Ray alienated several of the victims from their parents and convinced the victims they were “broken” and needed fixing by Ray, authorities said.

Ray would hold “interrogation sessions” that usually involved both verbal and physical abuse, targeting one victim at a time in the presence of other victims and often with assistance from at least one associate, the indictment states. He’d accuse victims of a range of crimes, including damaging his property. When they denied the false accusations, the interrogations would last for hours and end with false confessions by the victims.

According to the indictment, Ray recorded some of the confessions on video and he also took and kept explicit photographs of some of the victims.

Ray at one point took some of the victims to Pinhurst, North Carolina, and made them work on a property he owned there. They were allegedly made to work without pay to pay off the supposed damages they caused to Ray’s belongings.

Ray was arrested at his house in Piscataway on Feb. 11 and was slated to be arraigned later in the day.

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