New York, NY – A jury on Wednesday found a man guilty of sex trafficking his daughter’s friends and a multitude of other crimes after he started a cult in her dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College.
“Twelve years ago, Larry Ray moved into his daughter’s dorm room at Sarah Lawrence College. And when he got there, he met a group of friends who had their whole lives ahead of them,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said after the verdict, according to The Washington Post.
“For the next decade, he used violence, threats, and psychological abuse to try to control and destroy their lives,” Williams continued. “He exploited them. He terrorized them. He tortured them.”
Investigators said that 62-year-old Lawrence Ray created a de facto cult to sexually and psychologically control and manipulate his daughter’s college roommates for years, WCBS reported.
“The conduct alleged here is outrageous. It makes you angry,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director Bill Sweeney told reporters at a press conference when the charges against Ray were first announced.
“If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul,” Director Sweeney added.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said Ray got involved with his daughter’s friends while they were still young and impressionable, WCBS reported.
“Ray ensnared many of his victim while they were teenagers – a time of particular vulnerability for the young people he preyed on,” Berman said.
Prosecutors said it all began when Ray moved into his sophomore daughter Talia’s room in her dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in September of 2010, WCBS reported.
Talia told her roommates that her father – who was a “truth teller” – was getting out of prison and needed a place to stay and they agreed to let him stay in their dorm.
Ray cooked for them, counseled them on relationships, played a “father figure” role, and lectured them on his life philosophies, WCBS reported.
Sarah Lawrence College officials got complaints from other parents about Ray’s presence on campus, according to New York Magazine, the publication that first brought Ray’s activities at the school to the attention of the authorities.
One of his victim’s mothers said she met with Sarah Lawrence College Dean of Student Life Allen Green who told her his hands were tied and that Ray was just a father visiting his daughter on campus.
Sarah Lawrence College told New York Magazine it “had no record that Larry Ray lived on campus at any time.”
Ray eventually grew the group of his daughter’s roommates into a sex cult that he moved to an Upper East Side apartment, FOX News reported.
Prosecutors said cult activities included forced labor, prostitution, and mentally and physically abusing both male and female students.
“Ray put a knife to one male victim’s throat, brandished a knife and threatened to dismember another male victim, grabbed a third male victim around the neck until he passed out, slapped a female victim and grabbed another female victim by her head before shoving her to the ground,” Berman said.
“After enduring Ray’s abuse, seven of his victims falsely confessed to having harmed or attempted to harm Ray,” the prosecutor explained. “Ray, who sometimes recorded these false confessions, then used these false confessions to extort money from his victims.”
Claudia Drury, who was 19 when she was pulled into Ray’s cult, testified that she worked as a prostitute for four years in New York hotel rooms and gave approximately $2.5 million to Ray, The Washington Post reported.
Santos Rosario testified that he worked as a waiter one summer and gave Ray everything he earned.
Rosario also paid Ray $150,000 in installments that his parents gave him and another $13,000 he stole from his parents’ business, The Washington Post reported.
He later involved two of his sisters, both Ivy League graduates, in Ray’s cult.
One of his sisters dropped out of her medical residency at a hospital in California to go live with Ray, The Washington Post reported.
“When [Ray’s] victims were completely subdued, when they were under his control, he committed crimes to get them to pay — extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, obstruction of justice, financial crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Bracewell told the jury in her closing on April 4. “The defendant did all of this for control, for his own greed, and to increase his power, to cement his position in the organized group that he led.”
Ray’s defense attorney told the jury that the group had voluntarily participated in a shared fantasy together and that the “victims” were all consenting adults, The Washington Post reported.
“They weren’t children. They were high-achieving, educated, intelligent adults” who had “supportive parents,” defense attorney Marne Lenox said.
The jury deliberated for just a few hours on April 6 before returning guilty verdicts on all 15 counts against Ray, The Washington Post reported.
The charges against Ray included racketeering, sex trafficking, and forced labor.
Ray is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 1, NBC News reported.