true crime

After moving into his daughter's college dorm, Lawrence Ray allegedly started a sex cult.

In September 2010, Talia Ray told her college roommates that her father, who had just been released from prison following a custody dispute, needed a place to stay.

At the time, Talia’s group of friends were relatively unfazed.

After all, Talia had always described her father as a charming, good man. There was no reason to believe anything else.

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Within just days of his release, Lawrence “Larry” Ray moved into the shared college dorm at Sarah Lawrence College, planting himself in the common area and sleeping on the couch or on an air mattress.

Before long, Larry became a prominent figure among the dorm. He began treating Talia and her seven housemates to lavish steak dinners and paying for expensive food deliveries – all while engaging the group in heavy discussions and opening up about his own personal history.

In the months that followed, however, Larry’s position in the college dorm evolved from a “dad figure” to an intimidating, master manipulator.

At the time Larry began living in the dorm, many of the students were already in a vulnerable position. While a number of the students were battling mental health issues, another student was questioning his sexuality.

Eventually, a number of the roommates moved out of their college dorm, moving in with Larry in an apartment in New York City.

The move came after Larry called one of the student’s families, to prevent her from returning home for the winter break.

According to student Isabella’s aunt, Larry claimed that Isabella had been sexually abused as a child by a family friend and wasn’t able to return home as she was “suicidal”.

“You let this happen to her,” Larry reportedly told Isabella’s mother.

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During this time, Larry became even more involved in the student’s lives, holding mandatory house meetings and conducting weekly “counselling” sessions. It was a situation one student later described as “a cult”.

During the house meetings, members of the group were often interrogated for doing something Larry didn’t like. The group meetings were also cult-like – held in the pursuit of “personal transformation”.

During the one-on-one counselling sessions, Larry alienated the students from their parents, and often tried to convince them that they were “broken” by diagnosing them with made-up psychological problems.

“He controlled every aspect of our lives once we were in the apartment,” Talia’s former boyfriend told The Cut.

“When we ate, what we did, when we went to bed.”

While dealing with a break-up, Isabella became incredibly close with Larry.

While Talia and her then-boyfriend slept in the living room, Isabella shared the one bedroom in the condo with Larry.

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“I’m 19, I was having a lot of difficulty making sense of things, I wasn’t in a good place,” Isabella later recalled, speaking to The Cut.

“He started to help me kind of process and make sense of a lot of things I just couldn’t make sense of.”

But Larry’s relationship with Isabella soon grew manipulative.

While one student, Daniel, was questioning his sexuality, Larry instructed Isabella to kiss him.

A few weeks later, he instructed them to have sex while he watched. The practice continued and on other occasions, he joined in on the act and even invited the landlord, a friend of his, to join in.

“I got so freaked out,” Daniel said. “There was no consent in that situation. Isabella may have seemed to be pursuing all of this, but her mind was being twisted by Larry.”

In the years that followed, Larry began to create scenarios that required the students to pay him.

In one instance, the students were instructed to install a new drainage system in the backyard of Larry’s stepfather’s house.

When they finished the job, the students began asking their family for money, which they supposedly owed Larry for “damaging” the property.

One student, in particular, Santos, estimates his parents gave Larry more than $200,000 over three years, leading them to sell their house.

Another student, Claudia, began working as an escort under the guise of Larry. She gave all her profits (reportedly more than $500,000) to Larry, in the hopes of repaying the “damage” she had made at his stepfather’s home.

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Now, almost a decade on from Larry’s move into his daughter’s college dorm, Lawrence “Larry” Ray is facing federal charges including sex trafficking and extortion. The charges come largely thanks to an extensive report in The Cut, which exposed the decade-long abuse and manipulation among the cult.

According to the indictment, Larry has been accused of using “sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse” to control his victims, while laundering $1 million from them over the course of 10 years.

It was also alleged that Larry tied one woman to a chair and placed a plastic bag over her head, nearly killing her.

“Ray directed his victims to obtain money for him by other means, by draining their parents’ savings and worse, forced labour and prostitution,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said.

“He exploited that vulnerable time in these victims’ lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience.”

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mark Wahlberg is in talks to adapt The Cut story on Larry and the students he manipulated.

Feature Image: Getty.


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