KEY POINTS

  • Lawrence Ray, 60, reportedly moved in with his daughter and seven classmates, who were living in a house on the Sarah Lawrence College campus
  • He allegedly manipulated the other students into forced labor and prostitution, using false confessions and explicit materials as blackmail
  • Ray was reportedly a close friend of former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik and served as a key witness in the FBI's corruption investigation into Kerik

A man was indicted Tuesday on federal charges in Manhattan federal court for his alleged role as the head of a cult and prostitution ring preying on students at Sarah Lawrence College.

Lawrence Ray, 60, was formally charged for allegedly subjecting “the victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse.” He was indicted on charges of indoctrination and exploitation, engaging in sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor.

“If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul,” assistant director of the FBI’s New York office William Sweeney told reporters.

Ray’s alleged activities were first exposed as part of a New York Magazine piece from last April 28, titled, “The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence.” His activities reportedly started in 2010 when he moved in with his daughter, Talia, and several housemates, who were living on the Sarah Lawrence campus in Bronxville, New York.

At the time, Ray had just been released from prison after serving nearly 10 years in prison for a stock fraud scheme in 2001.

He allegedly started by presenting himself as a caring, father-type to his daughter and her housemates while living in the house’s common area. He reportedly then began “lecturing” the group and holding “therapy sessions” to get closer to the students. He used these “sessions” to learn “intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities and mental-health struggles under the pretense of helping them,” prosecutors alleged.

Ray allegedly used these details to alienate the students from their parents, convincing them “they were ‘broken’ and in need of fixing.” Talia’s boyfriend at the time, whose name has not been released, said it led to Ray allegedly controlling more aspects of their lives as time went on.

He specifically referenced a winter break he spent with Ray, Talia and a female housemate in a one-bedroom condo in New York City.

“He controlled every aspect of our lives once we were in the apartment,” the boyfriend told New York Magazine. “When we ate, what we did, when we went to bed.” He said Ray tried to get him to stop taking his prescribed antipsychotic medication, which led to a break up with Talia at the end of the winter break.

Ray’s activities reportedly continued escalating to physical and psychological torture to get the students to do his “bidding,” which allegedly included extorting money from the students. To ensure their silence, he recorded false confessions alleging the students had damaged Ray’s property and attempted to poison him.

If any of the students tried to challenge Ray, he allegedly responded with physical and emotional punishment. Some of these alleged punishments included holding a knife to one student’s throat, slamming a second to the floor, and suffocating a third with a plastic bag.

By 2014, Ray allegedly got one of the students to begin working as a prostitute to pay back debts he convinced her she owed him. To keep her “in line,” he reportedly forced her to have sex with another male student while Ray recorded it to blackmail her. She continued working for him for nearly four years and reportedly earned him more than $500,000.

Ray was described as a “good friend” of former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, but would go on to serve as a key witness in the FBI’s corruption case against Kerik in the early 2000s.

“I haven’t spoken to Larry Ray in over 19 years. I only wish that the FBI and the Justice Department realized what a conman he was prior to making him there superstar witness against me,” Kerik told reporters. “They were so adamant in destroying me and my family, they ignored his lies, deceit, and inconsistencies. Hopefully, this indictment will be the end of his reign of terror on every friend he has conned, manipulated or deceived.”

Sarah Lawrence College responded to the charges with a statement, saying: “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.”

College students Students are pictured on Jan. 13, 2003 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Getty Images