In 2010, Lawrence “Larry” Ray, now 63, infiltrated his daughter Talia’s group of friends at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, a college known for attracting some of the brightest students in the country. But what started as a dad crashing on a couch turned into a full-blown cult of sex, manipulation, and extortion.
Ray’s story then received national attention in 2019 New York magazine published an article about his then alleged exploits, which included extorting millions of his victims called “Sarah Lawrence’s Stolen Children.”
The revelation came after people found Ray’s victims’ websites promoting prostitution and videos of false confessions, and the piece led authorities to begin investigating Ray and his crimes. What they discovered was a series of deliberate attempts to control his victims and extort them for financial gain.
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In January 2023, after three years in the New York court system, Ray was sentenced to 60 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, violent crime for the purpose of extortion, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labour, tax evasion and money laundering offenses.
Hulu is unpacking the story into a three-part docuseries Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrencewhich premiered on February 9.
Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about Larry Ray and the Sarah Lawrence cult.
Table of Contents
Who is Larry Ray?
According to The New York TimesIn the 1980s, Lawrence “Larry” Ray owned several bars and nightclubs, befriending influential politicians such as Bernie Kerik, Commissioner of the New York Department of Corrections. Despite never having a college degree, he also worked as a consultant in various industries from insurance to gambling, per New York magazine.
In addition, Ray had connections with influential government officials, including former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, after befriending the Soviet leader’s interpreter, Pavel Palazhchenko, according to People. He allegedly used his connection with Gorbachev to arrange a meeting with him and then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at Kerik’s request.
In 1988, he married Teresa Ray, and together they welcomed two daughters, including Talia Ray. divorced in 2004.
Ray once praised himself to those around him – and later to Talia’s friends – as a former Marine with a wealth of life experience and slowly became a self-help “guru” and advisor to the group of students, per People. In addition, Ray had told her friends that he played a key role in some foreign policy discussions, including aid for the Kosovo ceasefire, and often showed a letter from NATO thanking him for his efforts, according to the Washington Post.
In addition to his stories of the glory days, he hosted group therapy sessions and lured the kids in with home-cooked meals and fatherly advice to gain their trust.
However, his purported resume was greatly embellished. The cut discovered that the Brooklyn native served 19 days in the US Air Force, with no evidence that he ever worked as an intelligence agent, despite his many claims to Talia’s friends that he was involved with the CIA.
That is also what a NATO official, Chris Donnelly, said The cut that the letter Ray presented was easily accessible to anyone who had even a small involvement in the ceasefire.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announced Larry Ray’s indictment in February 2022.
Image credit: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
What happened to Sarah Lawrence and how did Larry Ray take advantage of his victims?
Ray’s involvement with Sarah Lawrence’s students began in 2010 after he served six months in prison for violating his probation for securities fraud after being charged with interfering with child custody for refusing to hand over his daughters after a scheduled visit.
Ray’s daughter Talia, whom her father often regarded as a deity of wisdom, per The cut, believed Ray was protecting her from her “abusive mother” before he was imprisoned. She called his efforts to separate her from her mother “heroic,” and his imprisonment at the time was unjust and the result of “deep-seated government corruption,” according to the outlet. After his release, he went to live with Talia in her dorm with her friends Santos Rosario, Daniel Levin, Isabella Pollok and Claudia Drury.
Although the situation initially seemed strange to the students, per The protectorhe garnered their respect one by one by offering “therapy sessions” to help with their issues, the outlet said.
Once summer vacation came around, Ray moved into an apartment on the Upper East Side in 2011 and the students moved in with him. He then began using tactics such as sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, threats of physical assault, threats of criminal action, alienation and exploiting the vulnerability of the victims’ mental health, according to the chargeto gain control over his victims and use them for monetary gain.
Ray would convince his followers that they owned him money by manipulating them into thinking they had vandalized his property, which included a variety of machines used for home renovations such as tools for digging, and would force the students to participate in forced labor.
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Ray also enforced the students’ parents by asking them for payments and letting the kids pay off their debts. According to prosecutors, Ray extorted from at least five of his victims a total of approximately $1 million on false allegations of property damage, per BBC.
Some of his followers slowly started to realize what was going on and left the group, including Daniel Levin who cut off contact with Ray in 2013. Santos Rosario stuck around, and his sisters Yalitza and Felicia Rosario joined him. Isabella Pollok and Claudia Drury also stayed in the one-bedroom apartment with Ray. Pollock and Yaliza Rosario stood by Ray the longest and were known as his girlfriends. Isabella and Ray shared a bedroom.
Ray also forced Claudia Drury to become a prostitute to earn money to pay him back after he convinced her she broke his vacuum, ate his food and claimed she tried to poison him with cyanide, under the law . New York Times. She charged $2,000 an hour for her services. According to the BBC, her sex work brought Ray $ 2.5 million in four years.
Signage from the Sarah Lawrence College campus.
Image credit: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Ray’s troubles with the law started before Sarah Lawrence
Before becoming a cult leader for Sarah Lawrence, Ray was already involved in shady business deals.
From the 1990s through the early 1990s, Ray and Kerik developed a strong business and personal relationship, with Ray even being Kerik’s best man at his wedding.
Kerik introduced Ray to FBI agent Gary Uher, per The cutand he began working as an informant on the Gambino crime family’s “pump-and-dump stock scheme,” thanks to his long-standing business relationship with Eddie Garafola, a capo in the Gambino family.
However, Ray had offered a $100,000 bride on Garafola’s behalf, and the FBI agent soon realized that Ray had used his role with the FBI to hide his own involvement in the case.
In 2000, Ray and 18 other defendants were indicted in connection with the Gambino crime family scheme and charged with securities fraud.
Ray then turned to his old friend Kerik, who was then nominated by former President George W. Bush to be Secretary of Homeland Security in 2004, for help with his legal troubles. After Kerik refused to participate, Ray pleaded guilty to securities fraud and was sentenced to five years’ probation in 2003.
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The ordeal led Ray and his wife Teresa, who had previously accused him of child molestation in lawsuits, to divorce in 2004 and a bitter custody battle ensued.
After his conviction, Ray turned to the media to share damaging information about Kerik, including details of $165,000 in illegal free home renovations that Kerik allegedly accepted from the Interstate Industrial Corporation (known for allegedly having mafia ties), to which Ray had introduced him.
The scandal forced Kerik to revoke his nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security shortly after his appointment, and he later pleaded guilty to felony charges and false statements in connection with information Ray provided to authorities. Kerik was in prison for three years from 2010 to 2013.
Outside the house, Larry Ray lived with his victims on Sarah Lawrence’s campus.
Image credit: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Where is Larry Ray today?
The 2019 New York Magazine feature sparked an FBI investigation, which led to Ray’s February 2020 arrest on 15 counts of racketeering, extortion, violent assault, sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering and tax evasion, according to court documents. His trial began in April 2022 and was found guilty on all counts in January 2023 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Several of Ray’s victims testified at his trial and went on to tell their stories in books and documentaries. Santos Rosario and Daniel Levin published the book “Slonim Woods 9: A memoirin 2021. Only one, Isabella Pollok, his longest girlfriend, has been charged for her time with Ray and the crimes she allegedly committed.
Pollok was charged with racketeering, racketeering and sex trafficking conspiracies in March 2021. News week. She was the last to leave Ray’s side, but they seem to have broken up as their legal troubles mounted and they are no longer together. She pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy in September 2022, and she will be sentenced in February and faces up to five years in prison.