Dad convicted of running sex cult out of daughter’s dorm room
NEW YORK - A man who moved into his daughter's college dorm and charmed her schoolmates with stories about his wisdom was convicted Wednesday of charges that he exploited the close-knit group, using threats and violence to enrich himself with millions of dollars.
Lawrence Ray, 62, was convicted at a trial where weeks of testimony chronicled his psychologically manipulative relationship with young people he met in fall 2010 at Sarah Lawrence College, a small New York liberal arts school. Ray moved into his daughter's dorm after finishing a prison stint for a securities fraud conviction.
Sentencing was set for Sept. 16 on charges including racketeering, conspiracy, forced labor, sex trafficking and obstruction of justice. Ray, who stood with his arms at his side and faced the Manhattan jury as guilty verdicts were returned on 15 counts, could face up to life in prison.
After the verdict was read, Ray was returned to custody, where he had been since his early 2020 arrest.
His lawyers declined comment outside court and did not immediately return email messages seeking comment.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Ray had changed "a group of friends who had their whole lives ahead of them."
"For the next decade, he used violence, threats, and psychological abuse to try to control and destroy their lives," Williams said. "He exploited them. He terrorized them. He tortured them. Let me be very clear. Larry Ray is a predator. An evil man who did evil things. Today’s verdict finally brings him to justice."
Jurors concluded deliberations less than a day after receiving the case following a monthlong trial that featured testimony from numerous victims who usually referred to Ray just as "Larry." Some testified that Ray had made them believe they had poisoned or otherwise harmed him and they needed to pay him back.
One woman testified that she became a sex worker to try to pay reparations to Ray after becoming convinced that she had poisoned him. She said that, over four years, she gave Ray $2.5 million in installments that averaged between $10,000 and $50,000 per week.
Ray's lawyers maintained he was victimized by former friends who fabricated their stories.
Ray did not testify. Twice, the trial was interrupted as he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance for undisclosed illnesses.
Several students testified that they were drawn into Ray's world as he told them stories of his past influence in New York City politics, including his role in ruining the career of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik after serving as the best man at his wedding years earlier. Ray had, in fact, been a figure in the corruption investigation that derailed Kerik's nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Some of the students agreed to live with Ray in the summer of 2011 at his Manhattan one-bedroom apartment, where his sinister side emerged as he started to claim that the students had poisoned and harmed him or his property.
To make amends, they testified, they did what he asked, including turning over money. One man said he gave Ray over $100,000.
Prosecutors said the money was never enough. Through threats and violence and videotaped "confessions," Ray tightened his hold on the young people, including forcing them to Do landscaping and other work at the Pinehurst, North Carolina home of his stepfather for weeks in 2013, they said.
The abuse culminated in October 2018 when Ray for hours repeatedly abused the woman who gave him her proceeds from sex work, forcing her to be tied naked to a chair while he berated her, choked her with a leash and made her fear for her life by putting a bag over her head, prosecutors said.
Ray carried out his crimes with help from his daughter and Isabella Pollok, a woman who has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, prosecutors said. Her trial is set for later this year. The daughter has not been charged.