A 60-year-old man has been accused of targeting students at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, and subjecting them “to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse,” according to an indictment released Tuesday.
Lawrence Ray was charged with sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor and other offenses regarding his alleged criminal actions, some of which he went on with for nearly a decade, according to the indictment from federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
He is believed to have laundered about $1 million from his victims, most of whom were teens and young adults who participated in so-called therapy sessions he put on to purportedly help with psychological problems, prosecutors said.
Sarah Lawrence College said in a statement to ABC News that the school “just learned of the indictment,” but called the charges “serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting.”
“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,” according to the statement.
Ray’s alleged criminal activity started through the so-called therapy sessions, which he ran after he was released from a prison sentence for security fraud and moved into on-campus housing at the liberal arts school with his daughter and her roommates. The group eventually moved into a one-bedroom apartment on East 93rd Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Ray presented himself as a father figure to the students and learned “intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities, and mental health struggles under the pretense of helping them” during the sessions, according to the indictment.
Yet he then alienated them from their parents and convinced several that they were “broken” and “in need of fixing by Ray,” the indictment claimed.
He also made up lies about them, and, when they denied it, would subject them to interrogations that included “sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, physical violence, and threats of criminal legal action” — actions that then garnered false confessions, according to the indictment.
Ray videotaped the false confessions from at least seven victims and used them to extort money, unpaid labor and forced prostitution, according to the indictment.
If the students couldn’t pay, the indictment claimed, Ray ordered them to drain hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their parents’ savings accounts, open lines of credit, engage in real estate fraud and in one case earn money through prostitution.
He also allegedly took explicit photographs of some of the students.
Ray was the subject of a lengthy 2019 profile in New York Magazine’s The Cut, which detailed his dealings with the Sarah Lawrence College students. The piece was titled “The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence: What happened to the group of bright college students who fell under the sway of a classmate’s father?”
Ray did not talk to the outlet about parts of his past because he said they were either “classified” or would “endanger other people.”
He denied mostly all the accusations in The Cut article, but did admit to taking money from one of his alleged victims that she earned through escorting.
“We know what is and is not. We know what’s truth and what’s wrong,” he told the outlet.
Sarah Lawrence College said in its statement that the college conducted an internal investigation into the accusations against Ray after the article was published, and the investigation “did not substantiate those specific claims.”
It was not immediately clear if Ray had obtained legal representation.
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