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Prosecutors Say College Student's Dad Used 'Violence, Fear, Sex And Manipulation' To Control Victims And Extort Millions
"Once he gained control of their lives, ... he took over their lives," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Keenan said of the disturbing allegations against Lawrence Ray.
Lawrence Ray used “violence, fear, sex and manipulation” to control the college students he met while living in his daughter’s dorm room—once placing a plastic bag over a woman’s head and suffocating her as she helplessly sat in a Manhattan hotel room handcuffed to chair, according to a prosecutor’s opening statement Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Keenan described the October 2018 attack at the start of her opening statement, telling jurors how Ray attacked the woman—who he had allegedly forced into prostitution—because he felt her “slipping from his control,” according to The New York Times.
“He took the bag off of her face. He towered over her as she was handcuffed to that chair, gasping,” Keenan said according to The New York Post. “She was helpless. Unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to scream for help.”
According to Keenan, Ray “tormented her” for hours, placing the plastic back over her head over and over again.
“The defendant’s message was clear: He told her to behave. Keep making money,” Keenan said.
Within hours, prosecutors said, the woman was back in front of her prostitution clients, earning Ray money. She allegedly handed over more than a million dollars in proceeds from the sex work to Ray that year alone.
Keenan argued the woman was just one of the students at Sarah Lawrence College to fall victim to Ray’s alleged abuse and manipulation and lured into his cult-like criminal enterprise that continued for years.
The abuse allegedly began after Ray moved into his daughter’s dorm room in 2010, after getting released from a New Jersey prison for charges related to a custody dispute.
After impressing the students by telling them stories about his time rubbing elbows with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, prosecutors said Ray began to learn the secrets and insecurities of his daughters’ friends and roommates, eventually moving with some to an Upper East Side apartment.
He used the information and embarrassing video he captured of them to ensure they stayed within his control, “profiting off their labor, their money and even their bodies,” prosecutors said.
They argued that Ray forced the students to make false video confessions about trying to poison him or hurt his family, which he used to extort more than $2 million from his victims over a 10-year period or pressure them into forced labor.
If they resisted, he threatened to release the damaging information to their families or post it on the internet.
"Once he gained control of their lives, ... he took over their lives," Keenan said, according to The Associated Press.
However, Ray’s defense attorney, Allegra Glashausser, painted a starkly different portrait. She said the students had been taken in by Ray’s larger-than-life tales and soon began to make stories of their own.
“This was not a criminal enterprise,” she said, according to The Post. “This was a group of storytellers.”
She said some of the students suffered from mental illness, cautioning that although jurors would hear some “outlandish things,” to fully understand what happened they would have to “go through the looking glass, through the magic mirror,” to find the truth, according to The Times.
She argued that some of the students had told Ray they had poisoned him, which scared him, causing him to eventually seek help from the Environmental Protection Agency and prosecutors.
As for the woman involved in sex work, she said the woman “started escorting” in 2015 to pay for her rent.
"I'm not saying that Larry Ray is a saint," Glashausser said, according to the Associated Press. "You don't have to like him. But these things were not crimes."
After the opening statements, prosecutors called one of Ray’s alleged victims, Santos Rosario to the stand.
Rosario testified that he had met Ray while dating his daughter and initially thought he was “attentive and friendly.” However, he said the relationship soon turned violent, with Ray holding a knife to his genitals on one occasion.
“He would hit me, he would slap me,” he said, according to The New York Times.
Jurors also heard an audio clip that appeared to show Ray degrading Rosario as he hit him.
“F---ing little brat. How does that feel?” Ray asked, according to The New York Post. “Do you want to see me go to jail? You’re wasting my time. Wasting my f---ing time.”
Ray is facing 16 counts including money laundering, tax evasion, conspiracy and racketeering charges. He's pleaded not guilty.