The father of a former Sarah Lawrence College student is accused of sex trafficking and extorting students at the school in a years-long scheme that began in his daughter’s on-campus housing.
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.
Ray is accused of using tactics such as sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, physical violence and threats of criminal action as he isolated the victims from their families and exploited their mental health, according to a press release announcing the charges.
Authorities say he successfully extorted at least five victims of more than $1 million total.
During one instance of alleged abuse, prosecutors say Ray falsely accused a male victim of wrongdoing and then “placed a knife” to his throat until the male confessed. On another occasion, he’s accused of grabbing another male by the neck and choking him until he was unconscious.
Ray is also accused of coercing a female victim into prostitution after claiming she had tried to poison him and owed him supposed damages.
“As alleged, through fear, violence, and coercion, Ray forced one female victim to engage in commercial sex acts to pay damages to Ray that she did not actually owe,” prosecutors said in the news release. “Beginning when she was just a college student, Ray sexually groomed this victim, and collected sexually explicit photographs and other personal information which he then used to coerce her into continued commercial sex acts.”
She was forced to give her proceeds from the forced prostitution, totaling more than $500,000, to Ray as repayment for the supposed debts she owed, prosecutors said.
He also relied on physical abuse to control the woman, at one time tying the victim to a chair and putting a plastic bag over her head, according to the indictment.
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.
He regaled the students with tales about being a former government agent who had once worked as a CIA operative recovering missiles off the black market and helping to achieve a cease-fire in Kosovo, the magazine reported.
“He did all of our cleaning and definitely took on the dad role in the house in a big way,” former roommate Juli Anna told the magazine of living with the colorful father, who often cooked steak dinners, took limo rides around town and stressed the importance of eating well and working out.
In reality, the magazine reported, Ray had only served in the military for 19 days with the Air Force and had worked as a consultant.
He claimed to be the co-owner of a popular restaurant and night club and often rubbed elbows with top politicians and military officials, including Patrick Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Charles Pitman and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.
He had once contracted with the CIA and had a letter on NATO letterhead thanking him for his “efforts to ensure good communication and understanding between ourselves and the Russian leadership," the magazine reported.
For a time, he served as an FBI informant, but was later determined to be unreliable and ended up being indicted by federal prosecutors in 2000 for his involvement in a securities fraud scheme, the magazine reports. He was accused of paying a $100,000 bribe to the executive of a bond brokerage firm and pleaded guilty in 2003, receiving five years of probation.
His probation was revoked after being accused of domestic violence, although the charges in that case were later dropped.
After his release from prison, he joined his daughter at her dorm and began what authorities described as “therapy” sessions with his daughter’s male and female roommates, under the guise that he wanted to help them with their psychological problems. He then used the sessions to inject his own personal philosophies and hone in on each of the roommates’ vulnerabilities, according to the indictment.
“After gaining the Victims’ trust and confidences, Lawrence Ray, aka 'Lawrence Grecco,' the defendant, subjected the Victims to interrogation sessions that typically involved verbal and physical abuse,” the indictment read.
Ray often falsely accused the victims of damaging his property, damaging the apartment he had moved into with many of the victims subsequently or poisoning him or his family members.
When a victim denied an accusation, Ray allegedly used tactics such as sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, verbal abuse and physical abuse to coerce a confession. He often videotaped these confessions and then later used them to extort the victims, authorities said.
As the victims struggled to repay Ray for the supposed offenses, some drained their parent’s savings accounts in amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars, opened lines of credit or sold off real-estate property, according to the indictment.
Authorities said Ray forced others to repay him through forced labor at a property in North Carolina owned by one of his relatives. The victims were allegedly forced to install an irrigation system and complete other projects while Ray restricted their access to food and forced them to work in the middle of the night, according to the indictment.
“As alleged, for nearly a decade, Lawrence Ray exploited and abused young women and men emotionally, physically, and sexually for his own financial gain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “College is 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.”
Authorities said Ray then laundered the money—with the help of several associates—through an internet domain business.
Berman also thanked the NYPD and FBI for their help in the investigation.
Ray was arrested Tuesday morning was scheduled to appear in federal court later that afternoon.
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