Alleged Sarah Lawrence Cult Leader Larry Ray Was Charged With Sex Trafficking

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.
A new development in the Sarah Lawrence sex abuse case surfaced on Tuesday when Lawrence “Larry” Ray was charged with targeting students for indoctrination and exploitation, engaging in sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor. The case against Ray started in early 2019 when news broke about a sex cult that students at the college had been lured into by a Sarah Lawrence student's father. Now, Ray is being accused of pressuring his daughter's friends into sexual activities after moving into her dorm room. He was finally arrested on Tuesday morning in New Jersey.
According to a New York Times report, the case was taken on by attorneys in New York as well as William F. Sweeney Jr. — the head of New York’s F.B.I. office. Ray is meant to appear in federal court in New York on account of the charges against him now that the released indictment shows detailed charges on his participation and organization of a sex-trafficking cult.
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Court documents revealed that over the course of nearly a decade living with the Sarah Lawrence students, Ray “subjected his victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse.” The students he harmed have also accused him of taking money from them, and making them perform unpaid labor. According to the indictment, Ray subjected the survivors of his abuse to manipulative tactics including sleep deprivation, verbal and physical abuse, psychological and sexual humiliation. He threatened them with legal charges if they refused to cooperate with him.
Larry Ray's on-campus abuse case originally unfolded in a story by New York Magazine's The Cut, which detailed the inner-workings of a sex-trafficking ring at Sarah Lawrence College. Ray was the center of this ring, and became the subject of a lengthy law enforcement investigation that detailed personal accounts from students. The abuse began after his daughter, Talia Ray, organized housing for her and her friends after their freshman year.
In September of 2010, Talia told her friends that her father, who had just been released from prison, needed a place to crash for a while. Her friends were mostly “unfazed,” given that Talia described her father as a good man who had simply been accused by powerful men who wanted to silence him.
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When Ray first moved in with his daughter and her friends, he began treating them to lavish experiences like steak dinners and paying for big meals, according to the report. Among the 19-year-old roommates living with Talia, one said that he was exploring his sexuality, another two said they were both struggling with depression, and another was recovering from a bad break up — all around the time that Ray began staying with them. The students said that it seemed Ray was trying to take care of them as a thanks for letting him stay in their shared dorm on an air mattress or couch.
Over the course of months, and then years, Ray abused and manipulated each of the students in myriad ways, including not allowing them to go home to their families, making them attend mandatory house meetings, putting them on severe eating and exercise regimens, sexual abuse and more. Ray provided weekly "counseling" sessions with the roommates under the guise of helping with each of their "personal transformations." Eventually, the roommates ended up living with Ray in a New York City apartment while he worked at a vegan ice-cream shop in Manhattan's East Village. In one instance, one of the roommate describes Ray urging him to have sex with another roommate while he watched. Neither of the two engaging felt there was any consent involved.
At the time the original story came out, Sarah Lawrence’s lack-luster response left many holes in finding justice for the abused former students of their institution. But, the police investigation is finally holding Ray accountable for a lot of those unspoken holes — Ray was accused of laundering about $1 million from the students, and swaying at least one of them to engage in prostitution without consent, according to the Times. He will, according to investigators, be expected to answer to all of those charges.
Though the story continues to unfold and Ray is scheduled to appear in court to be held accountable for what he’s done, a former FBI informant summed up Ray's case best: “Larry Ray is a psychotic con man who has victimized every friend he’s ever had.”
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