The father of a former student at Sarah Lawrence College was charged with multiple offenses, including extortion, sex trafficking and forced labor, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.
Lawrence Ray, 60, was charged with using physical and psychological threats and coercion to indoctrinate and exploit a group of college students in Westchester County, N.Y., as well as other victims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York said in a release. He is expected to appear in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger later Tuesday.
Ray allegedly profited at least $1 million from at least five victims through extortion, forced unpaid labor and — for at least one victim — forced commercial sex acts. He then laundered the profits through an internet domain business, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York claims.
“As alleged, for nearly a decade, Lawrence Ray exploited and abused young women and men emotionally, physically, and sexually for his own financial gain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in the release. “College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery and new-found independence. But as alleged, Lawrence Ray exploited that vulnerable time in his victims’ lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience.”
The indictment says Ray began his abuse in 2010, after he moved into his daughter’s dormitory during her and her male and female roommates’ sophomore year. Ray allegedly used sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, physical violence, threats of criminal legal action and threats of exploiting his victims’ mental health vulnerabilities to exert his control over the young men and women, according to the release.
The defendant allegedly forced victims to confess to damaging property, stealing from him and trying to poison him, and to pay purported damages through their parents’ savings, credit lines, contributions from friends, selling real estate, unpaid labor or prostitution.
One victim provided $500,000 from forced prostitution, while at least three performed unpaid labor on a family member’s property in North Carolina.
Ray reportedly convinced the victims that they were “‘broken and in need of fixing” by him and successfully alienated them from their families.
An investigation into Ray’s alleged abuse began after a New York magazine article published in April delved into the lives of his alleged victims.
Sarah Lawrence College said in a statement obtained by The Hill that the college had just learned of the indictment.
“The charges contained in the indictment are serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting,” the statement reads. “As always the safety and well-being of our students and alumni is a priority for the College.”
Updated: 3:02 p.m.