A New Jersey man accused of moving into his daughter’s college dormitory and abusing her roommates is facing federal charges, including sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor.
Lawrence Ray, 60, appeared before a Manhattan judge on Tuesday after being accused of exploiting and abusing at least five Sarah Lawrence College students on and off campus over eight years.
“For the better part of the last decade, we allege there was no limit to the abuse Ray’s victims received, and there is no way of knowing the amount of damage he may have caused them in the years to come,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.
Ray’s arrest followed a stunning expose by New York magazine last April about the alleged psychological and sexual abuse, which led to the federal investigation.
At the time the expose was published, Sarah Lawrence denied knowing that Ray was living on campus. A representative for the school did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Wednesday.
Ray reportedly moved into a dorm room on the Sarah Lawrence campus at his undergraduate daughter’s invitation in 2010, following his release from prison on charges related to a custody dispute. He remained there until the following summer when he moved off-campus and shared an apartment with the students.
Ray allegedly presented himself as a father figure and therapist to the students until the relationship eventually turned abusive. He is accused of exploiting them for money, directing them to have sex in front of him, and severing the students’ relationships with their parents.
One student’s parents said they complained about Ray to the school’s dean of student life but were told that a student’s father was allowed to visit his daughter on campus, so there was nothing that could be done, New York magazine reported.
In a statement to The New York Times, a Sarah Lawrence representative said the school had just learned of Ray’s indictment and would cooperate with investigators if asked.
Ultimately, authorities say Ray extorted approximately $1 million from at least five students on campus and at other locations in later years. This money was either taken from the savings of the students’ parents or obtained by forced labor and prostitution.
“The conduct alleged here is outrageous; it makes you angry,” Sweeney said at a press conference. “If it doesn’t make you angry, you don’t have a soul.”
Ray allegedly tied one of his victims to a chair and nearly suffocated her with a plastic bag. This student gave him more than $500,000 in forced prostitution proceeds, authorities 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,” said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Ray is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, sex trafficking, obtaining forced labor, forced labor trafficking, conspiracy to obtain forced labor, two counts of violating the Travel Act and money laundering.
The sex trafficking charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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