The father of a former Sarah Lawrence student is accused of recruiting college students into a controlling, sex-fueled cult, and and forcing them pay him back thousands of dollars in “damage” to his property — leading one student to consider suicide if he could not come up with the money.
New York Magazine published an exposé about Lawrence “Larry” Ray, who in 2010 moved into a campus apartment with his daughter Talia, a sophomore at Sarah Lawerence in Bronxville, and her roommates. He had just been released from prison on a parole violation conviction, following a previous conviction on charges of securities fraud. Talia had reportedly told her friends that her father — who reportedly had connections in the mafia, worked as an FBI informant, and once had a close friendship with disgraced NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik — was a victim of a government conspiracy and needed a place to stay, temporarily after his release.
Before long, Ray was reportedly sharing a bedroom with one of those roommates, 19-year-old Isabella, who at the time of publication was still in some type of relationship with Ray. During school breaks, he arranged for the housemates he had purportedly taken under his wing, among them Santos, Claudia, and another friend, Daniel, to stay at an apartment he rented on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (Several sources for the story said they did not want their full names published.)
Daniel, who told New York Magazine he was exploring his sexuality at the time, claimed that Ray frequently orchestrated group sex or voyeuristic sex involving Daniel and Isabella, and said he did not consider these episodes to be consensual, largely due to Isabella’s state of mind. He also said that practical concerns led him to accept the offer to stay at Ray’s Manhattan apartment.
“Part of why I got in a cult at all was because I had no idea how one finds a place to live in New York,” Daniel told New York Magazine. He has since distanced himself from Ray and his devotees, following alleged incidents of violent sexual humiliation. On one occasion, Daniel claimed that Ray made a kind of torture device out of aluminum foil, and twisted it around Daniel’s penis and testicles as punishment for “distracting” Ray’s daughter Talia, causing her to miss the deadline for a law school application. Ray reportedly denied the incident took place.
Through intimate “counseling” sessions with the students, Ray “uncovered” childhood traumas like sexual abuse and neglect, sometimes confronting the students’ parents in phone calls or visits home with the young adults — calls and visits that alienated the students from their parents. According to the report, Ray told the housemates that they all shared an “obsession with taking their own lives,” though only one of them had attempted suicide before meeting Ray.
Since then, three of the people involved in the so-called cult have attempted suicide for the first time, and one, Santos, threatened to commit suicide if his parents didn’t pay Ray the five-figure sum the older man demanded as repayment for items Santos purportedly destroyed.
No charges related to the accusations in the report have been brought against Ray, who, along with Isabella, agreed to be interviewed for the article. Through his lawyer, Ray denied nearly every allegation made in the story, which you can read in full here.
[Feature image: Sarah Lawrence campus; SaidieLou for Wikipedia ]