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'Sarah Lawrence Cult' Leader Indicted

February 12, 2020
 
 

Lawrence Ray, who lived in his daughter’s Sarah Lawrence College dorm and allegedly exploited her college-aged friends and roommates, was federally indicted on charges of conspiracy, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor and other related charges on Feb. 11, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Ray, 60, is accused of extorting more than $1 million from the group of students and subjecting them to “sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, physical violence, threats of criminal legal action, alienating the victims from their families, and exploiting the victims’ mental health vulnerabilities” during a period from 2010 to 2018, according to the release. He formed what New York magazine called the “Sarah Lawrence ‘Cult’” and allegedly began grooming one woman for prostitution when she was in college.

“College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery and new-found independence,” said Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan U.S. attorney. “But as alleged, Lawrence Ray exploited that vulnerable time in his victims’ lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience.”

New York magazine’s April 2019 article about the so-called cult, which prompted the investigation into Ray’s wrongdoing, reported that the parents of one student had gone to a Sarah Lawrence dean about Ray’s behavior. In a statement to The New York Times, the college said the charges were “serious, wide-ranging, disturbing and upsetting” and said it would cooperate with investigators.

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