Father moved into daughter's college dorm, preyed on students

Clay Curtis
February 14, 2020

The father of a former Sarah Lawrence College student has been charged with sex trafficking and sexual abuse in relation to an alleged cult he organized out of his daughter's dorm room, The New York Times reports.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon also told a judge that statements Lawrence Ray made after his Tuesday arrest will be turned over to defense lawyers so they can prepare for trial.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman points to a photo showing Lawrence Ray during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in NY.

The allegations stem from so-called therapy sessions he provided to Sarah Lawrence College students after he moved into his daughter's on-campus housing in 2010.

He used this authority to gain power over the young adults and alienate them from their parents, authorities said. He moved into a one-bedroom apartment with several of the roommates on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 2011. He made them pay by "draining their parents' savings, opening credit lines, soliciting contributions from acquaintances, selling real estate ownership, and at Ray's direction, performing unpaid labor for Ray and earning money through prostitution".

The 22-page indictment laid out multiple ways the victims - both male and female - were physically threatened. He was accused of paying a $100,000 bribe to the executive of a bond brokerage firm and pleaded guilty in 2003, receiving five years of probation.

One of the students also allegedly engaged in prostitution for Ray's financial benefit. At least one of the women was forced into prostitution and Ray collected more than $500,000 from her, prosecutors said.

It is alleged that Ray subjected "his victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse", and laundering about $1 million from one victim under the guise of self-help.

In video posted online in 2017, a seemingly disoriented young woman says she tried to poison Ray, but there is no evidence she ever did.

U.S. Attorney's office shows Lawrence Ray an ex-convict known for his role in a scandal involving former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik

Nearly 10 months after the article came out, federal prosecutors charged Ray "with multiple offenses, including extortion, sex trafficking, and forced labor".

"As alleged, through fear, violence, and coercion, Ray forced one female victim to engage in commercial sex acts to pay damages to Ray that she did not actually owe", prosecutors said in the news release. The victims were allegedly forced to install an irrigation system and complete other projects while Ray restricted their access to food and forced them to work in the middle of the night, according to the indictment. But they said they didn't hear anything from authorities afterward. "It makes me angry. If you're not angry, you don't have a soul".

"But it is important to reiterate that the crimes for which this man has been indicted did not occur at Sarah Lawrence, even though he appears to have met certain of his victims while they were students here".

Sarah Lawrence College is a prestigious university in NY.

Ezra Marcus, a 2014 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, said he began digging into the stunning story around June 2018 when fellow alumni sent around unusual online postings from people affiliated with Ray. As always the safety and well-being of our students and alumni is a priority for the College.

The investigation that led to the charges against Ray was triggered by an article in the NY magazine in April entitled "The Stolen Children of Sarah Lawrence", Berman said at the press conference.

The college said it investigated the allegations raised in the NY magazine article but "did not substantiate those specific claims".

"We have not been contacted by the Southern District of NY, but will of course cooperate in their investigation to the full extent of the law if invited to do so", the statement said.

Ray was in court Tuesday (local time) and is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

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