The sex cult trial against Lawrence Ray started Tuesday in Manhattan’s federal court and prosecutors are already trying to get certain explicit evidence sealed. The N.J. man is accused of running a sex cult out of his daughter’s dorm room at Sarah Lawrence College and exploiting young students for his personal gain.
The 60-year-old father is accused of 17 counts, including extortion, money laundering, sex-trafficking, racketeering, forced labor, and violent crime. If convicted, he could face life in prison for his crimes.
On Sunday, prosecutors argued that certain evidence of “sexually explicit, violent, or degrading circumstances,” should be kept under seal during the trial. They wrote to Judge Lewis Liman and said that evidence containing explicit and nude images, such as in text messages and backpage advertisements should be kept out of the trial. It is unclear if the judge ruled with their arguments.
According to reports, Lawrence Ray became a sex cult leader back in 2010 when he moved into his daughter’s dorm room after getting out of prison. Ray had been in jail because of a child custody dispute with his ex-wife. For over 10 years, the N.J. man allegedly exploited the eight girls that lived in Slonim Woods 9 and convinced them that they were indebted to him.
Reports show that Ray “exploited and abused young women and men emotionally, physically, and sexually for his own financial gain.” He deprived them of sleep and food, took money from them, and even convinced them to have sex with strangers. One girl eventually got into prostitution because of Lawrence Ray’s manipulation.
Lawrence Ray and some of the victims eventually moved into an apartment in New York City where the abuse continued. Ray distanced the students from their parents, and some of them tried to commit suicide.
Lawrence Ray was finally arrested for his crimes in Feb. 2020 at his New Jersey home. The Cut published an article in Feb. 2020 detailing Ray’s crimes.
A federal indictment, filed in June 2020, said, “Over the course of nearly a decade, between in or about 2010 to the present, Ray subjected the Victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse. Ray extracted false confessions from at least seven Victims that they had caused harm and damage to Ray and to his family members and other associates. Ray leveraged the Victims’ false confessions to extort money from the Victims, to force some to perform unpaid manual labor, and to cause one of the female Victims to engage in commercial sex acts for Ray ‘s financial benefit in New York City and elsewhere.”
Some of the victims said that they didn’t question Ray’s manipulation or his residency at the Sarah Lawrence dorm because he took on a “fatherly role.”
“He did all of our cleaning and definitely took on the dad role in the house in a big way,” said Juli Anna, one of the Slonim 9 roommates.
Another victim said that she didn’t want to go home and that was partly why she followed Ray and his sex cult.
“I didn’t want to go back home, and this was my alternative,” one victim said. “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.”
Ray’s daughter has not been charged for her connection with the sex cult, but her friend and former roommate has been. Isabella Pollok was charged with 11 counts in March 2021, including sex trafficking and extortion. She will be tried separately from Lawrence Ray and her trial is set to begin in the summer.
Pollok claims that she met Ray when she was going through a tough time and that he “started to help me kind of process and make sense of lots of things I just couldn’t make sense of.” The FBI has labeled Pollok as Ray’s “lieutenant,” and “co-conspirator.” Isabella Pollok said that Ray told her to have sex with other men and she even wrote a letter to one of his victims and called her “vile,” and accused her of poisoning five people.