Ringleader of Sex Cult at Sarah Lawrence College Gets 60-Year Sentence

When Lawrence V. Ray arrived on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College in 2010, he presented himself as a mentor to the young men and women who lived in a ‌dormitory with his daughter.

Mr. Ray, then 50, began spending nights in the dormitory, holding forth on the importance of honesty and extolling the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. He asked students about their lives, they said, and regaled them with dramatic tales about his own.

But Mr. Ray’s dark side soon emerged, according to testimony in a trial last year that ended with his conviction on extortion, sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other charges.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Ray, who was arrested in 2020 after the publication of a New York magazine article about him, studied cults and mind control, grooming his victims and bending them to his will. Over a decade, he abused a group of young people, gaining their trust and isolating them from their parents, the prosecutors added, then coerced them into making false confessions that he used ‌as leverage ‌to extort millions of dollars.

Four of Mr. Ray’s former followers testified during his trial, describing how he had won them over. He then made them feel worthless, denigrating them, directing them to have sex with each other and with strangers and forcing one to become a prostitute, they said.

On Friday, Judge Lewis J. Liman of Federal District Court in Manhattan sentenced Mr. Ray to 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of life in prison, writing to the court that Mr. Ray was “incapable of contrition” and would present a serious danger even at an advanced age.

“While the defendant’s victims descended into self-hatred, self-harm, and suicidal attempts under his coercive control,” prosecutors wrote, “the evidence showed that the defendant took sadistic pleasure in their pain and enjoyed the fruits of their suffering.”

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