Sex Cult Scandal: Sarah Lawrence College Coed’s Father Moves Into Her Dorm, Exploits Roommates

“Lawrence Ray exploited that vulnerable time in his victims’ lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience,” a prosecutor on the case says.

March 02, 2023
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's office shows Lawrence Ray, an ex-convict who obtained millions of dollars by subjecting his daughter's ex-college roommates to forced labor and prostitution.

Lawrence Ray, an ex-convict who obtained millions of dollars by subjecting his daughter's ex-college roommates to forced labor and prostitution, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

Photo by: U.S. Attorney's Office via AP

U.S. Attorney's Office via AP

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Lawrence V. Ray moved into his sophomore daughter’s dormitory room at the liberal arts college Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York. During his time living on campus, Ray groomed his daughter’s roommates and created what amounted to a sex cult. Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. noted Ray would “eventually lead these young adults to become unwitting victims of sexual exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, extortion, forced labor, and prostitution.” It would take nearly a decade for the scandal to come to light and several more years for Ray to be brought to justice.

2010

Following his move into his daughter’s dormitory room at Sarah Lawrence, Ray begins “therapy” sessions with her roommates, claiming he can help them with their problems, CNN reports, citing his original indictment. After grooming the students, he financially exploits them and slowly alienates them from their loved ones. He also blackmails the victims and begins sex trafficking at least one.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, later says Ray used sleep deprivation, threats of violence and other “grueling psychologically and physically abusive interrogations” against the roommates, who suffered “almost unspeakable” abuse.

April 2019

New York Magazine publishes “The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence,” an investigative exposé on Ray that details the allegations against him from nearly a decade earlier.

February 2020

Federal prosecutors indict Ray and charge him with 15 crimes, including extortion, sex trafficking, and forced labor. They also claim that he “attempted to gain the trust of the victims,” his daughter’s friends, “before psychologically manipulating and controlling them for the success and furtherance of the group's ideology and the financial gain of its members,” the indictment states, CNN reports.

Berman, the Manhattan US attorney, points out that the college years are “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.”

January 2021

Prosecutors initially believe one student, Isabella Pollok, was a victim. But in an indictment unsealed at the beginning of the year they state she was a co-conspirator who helped Ray and participated in the criminal scheme, including by “helping [him] collect millions of dollars in profits from one of her former classmates whom prosecutors said he had forced to become a prostitute,” The New York Times reported.

Pollok claims to New York Magazine that she fell under Ray’s spell as a freshman because she had just gone through a bad breakup. “I’m 19, I was having a lot of difficulty making sense of things, I wasn’t in a good place,” she tells the publication. “He started to help me kind of process and make sense of a lot of things I just couldn’t make sense of.”

In a sentencing submission obtained by People, prosecutors state Pollok held a “privileged position within the Ray Family, acting as Ray's lieutenant, with respect to his extortionate demands for financial payments, physical labor, and prostitution, and in laundering the criminal proceeds of extortion and sex trafficking through bank accounts and GoDaddy.”

Prosecutors add: “While collecting money from her abused and trafficked college friends, the defendant was spending luxurious nights at the Pierre Hotel on the Upper East Side and buying expensive clothing, beauty products and high-end lingerie.”

September 2022

Pollok, now 31, pleads guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition to money laundering, she previously faced charges of extortion conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, racketeering conspiracy.

January 2023

Ray receives a sentence of 60 years after he was convicted on multiple charges, including extortion, sex trafficking, and racketeering conspiracy.

February 22, 2023

Pollok is sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan to four and a half years behind bars.

In a letter to the judge, prosecutors acknowledged that despite her conviction, Pollok was a victim in the case and “also suffered at Ray’s hands.”

“Witness interviews and evidence recovered during the investigation show parallels between the defendant's experience and that of the victims in this case,” prosecutors wrote.

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