NEW YORK CITY – The father of a former student at Sarah Lawrence College, who is accused of manipulating her school friends, was charged with sex trafficking, forced labor and extortion, according to an indictment released Tuesday.
Lawrence Ray, 60, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in Piscataway, New Jersey, and is likely to be arraigned this afternoon in Manhattan federal court. One of the victims was with Ray when he was arrested, authorities said.
The exploitation began in 2010 when Ray moved into an on-campus dorm with a group of sophomores – including his daughter – at Sarah Lawrence, William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI in New York, said at a news conference Tuesday in New York City.
“The arrangement was anything but traditional,” Sweeney said.
‘If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul’
Ray spent about a decade sexually and psychologically manipulating his victims and physically abusing them, according to the indictment.
Until at least 2018 he forced his victims to perform unpaid labor and prostitute themselves for his financial benefit, authorities said. He’s also accused of laundering about $1 million from his victims, some of whom drained their parents’ bank accounts to pay Ray, authorities said.
Lawrence, a former convict, is facing nine counts and could face up more than 100 years behind bars if found guilty, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
“The conduct alleged here is outrageous,” William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI in New York, said at a press conference today in Manhattan. “It makes you angry. If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul.”
Ray had at least five alleged victims, and authorities said there could be more.
“Sarah Lawrence College has just learned of the indictment of a former parent in the Southern District of New York,” the college said in a statement today. “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.”
The crimes allegedly occurred in Westchester County, Manhattan, and Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Victims drained parents’ bank accounts to pay Ray, authorities said
Ray “made himself at home among the group of teens and young adults,” Sweeney said.
The students later lived with Ray in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and in Pinehurst, he said. Ray started holding what he called therapy session for the students to address what he claimed to be their “psychological problem,” Sweeney said, leading to the students becoming “unwitting victims.”
“For the better part of the last 10 years, Ray has continued to mentally and physically torture his victims,” Sweeney said. “There was no limit to the abuse that Ray’s victims received, and there’s no knowing the amount of damage he may have caused them in the years to come.”
Ray is accused of using tactics such as sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, violence, threats of legal action, alienating victims from their families, and exploiting victims’ mental health issues.
Ray used those methods to convince the victims to falsely confess to damaging Ray and his family, then he extorted the victims for those purported damages, authorities said.
Victims drained their parents’ savings, opened credit lines, solicited money from friends, sold real estate ownership and, at Ray’s direction, performed unpaid labor and made money through prostitution to pay him, authorities said.
Ray is accused of taking sexually explicit photographs of victims and using that as leverage. One time he tied a victim to a chair, placed a plastic bag over her head and nearly suffocated her, then took more than $500,000 that she made in forced prostitution, authorities said.
Ray and at least two associates, who were not named by authorities, laundered the money through an internet domain business, officials said.
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