NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The father of a student who attended a Westchester County college is accused of moving into the dorms, preying on his daughter’s friends, sex trafficking, and extortion.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors laid out a very disturbing case against Lawrence Ray, 60, who was arrested earlier in the morning at his home in Piscataway, N.J., CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at the time of Ray’s arrest, one of his daughter’s roommates and one of the alleged victims in the indictment were with him.
Berman said the alleged incidents began in 2010, when Ray moved into his daughter’s dorm room at Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts college in Bronxville. The school was first identified in a report by New York Magazine. Authorities said Ray acted as a father figure and conducted therapy sessions with his daughter’s roommates as a means to manipulate them and prey on their insecurities.
The following year, the roommates moved with Ray to an Upper East Side apartment, where the teens and young adults introduced Ray to other victims, Berman said.
“Ray used physical, psychological, and sexual abuse to make his victims confess to alleged wrongdoing and then agreed to make substantial payments to Ray, payments that these young students didn’t actually owe and could not possibly afford,” Berman said. “So, Ray directed his victims to obtain money for him by other means, by draining their parents’ savings and, worse, forced labor and prostitution.”
The 22-page indictment laid out multiple ways the victims — both male and female — were physically threatened. Ray was accused of putting a knife to a male victim’s throat, threatening to dismember another male victim, and using physical violence against three other victims. It is also alleged that a female victim was forced into prostitution for years.
“That victim, at Ray’s direction, worked as a prostitute for more than four years while giving Ray substantially all of the proceeds from her forced prostitution,” Berman said.
At least five teens and young adults were allegedly threatened to contact their parents for money that was funneled to Ray, prosecutors said, adding, through physical violence, withholding of food, and other abuse, Ray coerced the victims into making false confessions.
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. Prosecutors claimed Ray would use these videos to extort his victims.
Ray was hit with multiple charges, including causing physical and psychological harm to victims, mandating forced labor, money laundering, and even sex trafficking of multiple victims.
Berman said, in total, over the course of a decade, Ray coerced nearly $1 million in payments from five different victims.
In that time, he moved them to North Carolina before settling in Piscataway, where he allegedly “restricted their access to food and sleep” and forced victims to “work in the middle of the night and to sleep outside.”
“All times of the night, I mean, two, three o’clock in the morning, they were still out there working,” a neighbor said. “I’ve been here probably about four, four and a half years and I’ve always questioned that house.”
When asked about Ray’s alleged conduct, FBI Assistant Director In Charge Bill Sweeney said, “It makes you angry. If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul.”
CBS2’s Tony Aiello spoke to students at Sarah Lawrence’s Slonim Campus Housing.
“He’s just a manipulator, trying to hurt people for his own gain,” Mason Miller said.
“So it freaked me out to hear about that happening on such a small campus,” Brooklyn Golinvaux added.
“I think now the school is definitely taking precautions and I don’t think anything like this could happen again, which is really good,” added Margaret McGuiness.
Sarah Lawrence College released the following statement:
“Sarah Lawrence College has just learned of the indictment of a former parent in the Southern District of New York. The charges contained in the indictment are serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting. As always the safety and well-being of our students and alumni is a priority for the College.
“In April 2019, New York Magazine published a range of accusations about this former parent. At that time, the College undertook an internal investigation regarding the specific activities alleged in the article to have occurred on our campus in 2011; the investigation did not substantiate those specific claims.
“We have not been contacted by the Southern District of New York, but will of course cooperate in their investigation to the full extent of the law if invited to do so.”
Cult expert and author Rick Ross told Aiello via Skype he is not surprised bright students at an elite college could be manipulated by a charismatic figure.
“The human mind is much more fragile than we’d like to admit, and given the right set of circumstances people can be exploited,” Ross said, adding, “And people like Ray are very deceptive. They’re predatory.”
Ray was in court Tuesday and is expected to be arraigned Wednesday. If found guilty of these charges, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.