Watch CBS News

Man accused of exploiting daughter's peers at Sarah Lawrence College convicted of sex-trafficking and forced labor

Sarah Lawrence father arrested by FBI
Sarah Lawrence father charged with sex trafficking, exploiting daughter's college friends 03:48

A man who moved into his daughter's college dorm and charmed her schoolmates with stories about his wisdom was convicted Wednesday of charges that he exploited the close-knit group, using threats and violence to enrich himself with millions of dollars. 

Lawrence Ray, 62, was convicted on all counts following a Manhattan trial where jurors heard weeks of testimony from witnesses who described his psychologically manipulative relationship with young people he first met at Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school in New York, starting in the fall of 2010. Ray moved into his daughter's dorm after getting out of prison.

Ray was charged with racketeering, sex trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor and other crimes.

In some instances, Ray convinced his alleged victims that they had poisoned or otherwise harmed him, and that they needed to pay him back, prosecutors said.

One woman testified that she became a sex worker to try to pay reparations to Ray after becoming convinced that she had poisoned him. She said that, over four years, she gave Ray $2.5 million in installments that averaged between $10,000 and $50,000 per week.

Ray's lawyers maintained he was victimized by former friends who fabricated their stories.

College Students Exploited
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman points to a photo showing Lawrence Ray during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in New York.  Jim Mustian / AP

Ray, who has been incarcerated since his early 2020 arrest, did not testify. Twice, the trial was interrupted as he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance for undisclosed illnesses.

Several of the students testified that they were drawn into Ray's world as he told them stories of his past influence in New York City politics, including his role in ruining the career of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik after serving as the best man at his wedding years earlier. Ray had, in fact, been a figure in the corruption investigation that derailed Kerik's nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Some of the students agreed to live with Ray in the summer of 2011 at his Manhattan one-bedroom apartment, where his sinister side emerged as he started to claim that the students had poisoned and harmed him.

To make amends, they testified, they did what he asked, including turning over money. One man said he gave Ray over $100,000.

Prosecutors said the money was never enough, though. Through threats and violence and videotaped "confessions," Ray tightened his hold on the young people, including forcing them to work at the North Carolina home of his stepfather for weeks in 2013, they said.

The allegations against Ray attained public prominence with the 2020 publication of "The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence," a New York magazine feature.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.