For years, Lawrence “Larry” Ray slithered on both sides of New York law enforcement circles, enjoying connections both to top officials like then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former jail boss (and future NYPD commissioner) Bernard Kerik, as well as reputed mobsters. He told wild stories—sometimes with evidence—about playing a role in NATO and other international operations, and said he even helped broker a meeting between Giuliani and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1997.
But for all his shape-shifting over the years, Ray will now be known more than anything else as the leader of what amounted to a sex cult that he founded after moving into his daughter’s Sarah Lawrence dorm room upon his own release from prison in 2010.
“Larry Ray is a predator. An evil man who did evil things. Today’s verdict finally brings him to justice,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after Ray was convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday.
After about four hours of deliberation, the jury on Wednesday found the 62-year-old father guilty of all the 15 charges against him, including sex trafficking, extortion, and racketeering conspiracy for physically, sexually, and psychologically abusing college students at the liberal arts school in upstate New York. Ray was also found guilty of laundering millions from one woman he forced into sex work for four years. He now faces life in prison.
“This [conviction] is the only good thing that’s come out of this trial,” Kerik told The Daily Beast on Wednesday following the verdict. “He tortured those kids.... It’s difficult for many people to understand how he could do this. But I think people like me… people he conned and betrayed, we understand.”
The former cop who once called Ray a friend—Ray was best man at his wedding—was granted a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump in 2020 for several crimes, including tax fraud. He told The Daily Beast ex-the conviction “feels vindicating” after his name was brought up frequently throughout the trial.
Several victims, and the defense, told jurors that the Sarah Lawrence kids believed Kerik had directed some of them to plot against Ray and even poison him. Kerik previously told The Daily Beast the claims make no sense considering he was in prison from 2010 to 2014.
“I haven’t fucking seen the guy in 21 years. I have no use for him. It’ll be nice to be out of the headlines for once and to be left alone,” Kerik added.
The conviction marks the end of a month-long trial marred by multiple medical emergencies that saw Ray carted out of court on a stretcher—and a blunder by the prosecution’s office that revealed a list of 121 alleged sex-work clients ensnared in the saga.
At the trial, prosecutors argued that, in 2010, shortly after Ray’s release from a New Jersey prison, he moved into his daughter’s Sarah Lawrence College dorm and began a “campaign of terror” against her friends that included instilling a “climate of fear” under the guise of self-help.
“Every single one of his actions was designed… to keep control over them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie Bracewell said during closing arguments on Monday. “The defendant implemented and sustained tactics of abuse and manipulation… slowly, surely, until his control was complete and his exploitation could be unleashed.”
Three years after New York magazine broke the news of Ray’s misdeeds, victims described a man they were once enthralled by subjecting them to abuse over the slightest of mistakes—and, in some cases, completely fabricated allegations of their own wrongdoing.
Three people testified about how they were coerced to admit to crimes they did not commit after hours of brutal interrogation, forced to pay Ray thousands of dollars for their alleged mistakes, and subjected to twisted physical and verbal abuse. Santos Rosario, one of his victims, testified that his mother gave him upwards of $200,000 to pay Ray for alleged “property damage”—and that he still had to resort to stealing $10,000 when more was demanded.
The saga stretched from the upstate college to homes in New York and New Jersey and even a visit to North Carolina.
“You heard how he brutalized them with a hammer, with pliers, with punches, with a plastic bag, with vicious abuse, with forced labor,” Bracewell said. “You heard how he took their money again and again.”
Ray’s defense attorneys maintained throughout the trial that the allegations against their client were just “stories” told by a group of misguided young adults. “Everyone was out to get him, Larry believed,” Lenox said, insisting that his daughter’s friends would offer him wild confessions about their own wrongdoing that they believed to be based in fact.
Prosecutors identified at least one female co-conspirator in Ray’s case: Isabella Pollok, a former student who became his “trusted lieutenant” and is facing conspiracy charges. She has pleaded not guilty.
Claudia Drury, 31, spent five days on the stand detailing to jurors her journey from Sarah Lawrence sophomore to a sex worker in New York City who gave all of her profits to Ray. She explained that after becoming dependent on Ray and isolating herself from her parents, she spent four years as a sex worker to pay the 62-year-old back for allegedly damaging his property and even trying to poison him. (Neither allegation proved to be true.)
In perhaps the most horrifying episode of violence detailed at trial, Drury described seven hours of torture at the hands of Ray inside a Manhattan hotel room. She claimed Pollok was also present, and that at one point, Ray took a break to eat burgers and fries ordered from a diner.
“He told me to strip naked, I did. Briefly, over the course of seven or eight hours, he ended up binding me to a chair, a desk chair in the room, and suffocating me with a plastic bag many times,” Drury said about the October 2018 incident inside the Gregory Hotel. “Choking me to the point of passing out twice with a leash and collar I had.”
Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that the alleged torture was just one example of Ray’s criminal behavior, but was emblematic of the pattern he exhibited throughout the years-long scheme.
“This night of abuse is seared on her memory,” Bracewell said.
Hers was ultimately the story jurors believed, a devastating indictment that a man described as a master manipulator—but who refused to testify—failed to talk his way out of.