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A woman once believed to be a victim in a cult-like group rife with alleged sexual exploitation and extortion is now facing charges in the case herself.
Isabella Pollok has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy and money laundering after prosecutors said she conspired with Lawrence Ray, the father of her one-time college roommate to psychologically manipulate and control victims, according to a grand jury indictment obtained by Oxygen.com from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Ray is accused of recruiting Pollok “to join the criminal scheme and to work on behalf of the [e]nterprise,” according to the court documents.
Authorities say the pair worked together for a decade, beginning in 2010, to “gain the trust of the [v]ictims before psychologically manipulating and controlling them for the success and furtherance of the [e]nterprise’s ideology and the financial gain of its members.”
Pollok was initially believed to be one of the victims in the scheme allegedly carried out by Ray—who moved in with his daughter and her roommates at her dorm at Sarah Lawrence College after his release from prison, The New York Times reports.
Former members of the group have alleged that Ray inserted himself into the young college students' lives with fancy steak dinners, limo rides and claims of being a decorated government agent and CIA operative, according to a New York Magazine article that broke the story on the case last year.
Ray soon began what authorities have described as “therapy” sessions under the guise of wanting to help the students with their psychological problems, then used the sessions to inject his own philosophies and hone in on their vulnerabilities.
“After gaining the [v]ictims’ trust and confidences, Lawrence Ray, aka ‘Lawrence Grecco,’ the defendant subjected the [v]ictims to interrogation sessions that typically involved verbal and physical abuse,” according to an earlier indictment in Ray’s case obtained by Oxygen.com.
Authorities have said he often forced his victims to record false confessions about perceived grievances—including damaging his property or poisoning him—and then those used those confessions to extort money from them or coerce them into labor.
"College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery and new-found independence," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said while announcing Ray’s indictment in the case in 2020, according to CNN. "But as alleged, Lawrence Ray exploited that vulnerable time in his victims' lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience."
Ray faces a series of charges in the case, including racketeering, extortion and sex trafficking.
Pollok and Ray first crossed paths when she was just 19 years old and on a full academic scholarship to Sarah Lawrence, according to the New York Magazine article. The article only refers to Pollok by her first name; however, The New York Times has confirmed that the article was referencing Pollok.
“I’m 19, I was having a lot of difficulty making sense of things, I wasn’t in a good place,” she told the magazine. “He started to help me kind of process and make sense of a lot of things I just couldn’t make sense of.”
Ray soon moved into Pollok’s room, initially claiming he was “going to be sleeping on the floor.”
After moving from their on-campus housing, Pollok continued to live with Ray at locations in Manhattan, Pinehurst, North Carolina and Piscataway, New Jersey, according to her indictment.
As the years progress, New York Magazine describes their relationship as “opaque” adding that “sometimes she acts like his assistant, carrying his computer and screening his phone calls; other times she’s more clearly his girlfriend” or a “corroborating witness.”
Prosecutors now say that, together, Ray and Pollok “leveraged the [v]ictims’ false confessions to extort money from the [v]ictims, to force some of the Victims to perform unpaid manual labor, and to cause one of the female [v]ictims … to engage in commercial sex acts for the Enterprise’s financial benefit.”
Pollok was never named as a defendant in the initial indictment against Ray and it’s not clear what made prosecutors believe she should be considered a co-conspirator in the case.
Pollok’s aunt, Liz Jeffrey, told The New York Times, she was bewildered by the charges against her niece and believes she had been a “victim” who was brainwashed by the much older man.
“I don’t care what they found,” she said. “It’s all under duress. She has been under his spell for 10 years.”
At her arraignment, her attorney, Peter M. Skinner said he believed his client “may not be competent to stand trial,” and asked for the judge to order a psychological evaluation—despite Skinner’s acknowledgement that Pollok believed she was competent herself, The New York Times reports.
The judge in the case agreed to order the evaluation.
Both Ray and Pollok have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, People reports.
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