Sarah Lawrence College dad pleads not guilty in sex trafficking, extortion case

Nellie Chapman
February 14, 2020

Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, November 8, 2018.

Former high-profile NYPD informant Lawrence Ray has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on sex trafficking and other charges, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of NY. At least one of the women was forced into prostitution and Ray collected over $500,000 from her, prosecutors said.

The investigation into Ray began after a story about the alleged abuse was published in New York Magazine, which detailed how Ray moved into his daughter's on-campus dorm room in 2010 after being released from prison.

She commented at an arraignment as Ray pleaded not guilty to extortion and sex trafficking charges.

Lawrence Ray, 60, is now facing a series of charges against him that include conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, sex trafficking, obtaining forced labor and money laundering after authorities say Ray used sexual and psychological manipulation to control his alleged victims-forcing one into prostitution and others into forced labor at a rural property to work off perceived debts, according to a federal indictment.

The investigation that led to the charges against Ray was triggered by an article in the NY magazine in April entitled "The Stolen Children of Sarah Lawrence", Berman said at the press conference.

Ray often falsely accused the victims of damaging his property, damaging the apartment he had moved into with numerous victims subsequently or poisoning him or his family members.

"Ray directed his victims to obtain money for him by other means, by draining their parents' savings and worse, forced labor and prostitution", Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NY, said at a press conference per CBS News. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, said at the time of the 60 year old's arrest, one of his daughter's roommates and one of the alleged victims in the indictment were with him.

Starting in the summer of 2011, several of the roommates lived with Ray in a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he continued his practice of lecturing the victims and conducting "therapy" sessions, "during which he learned intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities and mental health struggles", the indictment says. A prosecutor said they have interviewed 17 witnesses.

"For the better part of the last decade, we allege there was no limit to the abuse Ray's victims received, and there is no way of knowing the amount of damage he may have caused them in the years to come", said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney.

"Ray ultimately extracted false confessions from at least seven victims that they had intentionally damaged Ray's and his family members' and other associates' property", the indictment states, noting that erroneous confessions included that they had "poisoned Ray and his family members".

He also used violence; in one instance, he tied the woman to a chair, placed a bag over her head and almost suffocated her, prosecutors said. His first victims were his daughters' roommates, Berman said. But they expressed concern that their actions had evaded the attention of the authorities for so long.

Following Ray's arrest, officials at Sarah Lawrence College issued a statement which read, "The charges contained in the indictment are serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting".

"It's quite shocking that it took 10 years to accuse this guy", said Wyatt Button, 20, a sophomore who studies film. He would then use that to extort them, prosecutors said.

"It's creepy", McGonagle said.

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