On Sunday, New York Magazine published an exposé about a group of college students at Sarah Lawrence who were manipulated into following the teachings of a sex cult ringleader. The article goes into how Lawrence Ray, a 59-year-old ex-con, brainwashed his daughter and her friends into allowing him to become the puppeteer of their personal transformations.
Larry's plot began in 2010 when he moved into his daughter Talia's dorm in the Upper East Side of Manhattan after being released from prison. He gradually became closer with each of his daughter's friends and roommates, often giving them advice they believed would better their lives. The article notes that many of the students Larry came into contact with had demonstrated suicidal tendencies.
The situation started to worsen when Larry began cementing his stature as the patriarch of the communal household by giving the children advice, punishing them for making routine mistakes, and rewarding their behavior with expensive meals and gifts.
Talia's father then expanded his scope of control, often requiring the students disclose personal information to him, particularly childhood trauma. Larry then used the information they had divulged to tighten his grasp on the young men and women. He alienated them from their friends and family by manipulating them to distrust those around them.
"Larry had brought them into a moneymaking venture, he had alienated them from their family and friends, and he had put them in the hot seat," the author writes. "He tried talking to a psychologist, but Larry’s behavior had so closely mimicked therapy that the process felt impossible. Even the act of making friends felt unsafe."
One of the students Larry tried to manipulate was Daniel Barban Levin, who told Larry during his senior year he was beginning to question his sexuality. As punishment, Larry instructed Daniel to wear a dress while penetrating himself with a dildo in front of the other students. "Daniel followed Larry's command and his friends laughed at him," the author writes.
Although Daniel left the apartment in 2013, Larry had spent years grooming the students, and thus managed to draw others in. He often made the female students in his orbit have sex with him, and get thousands of dollars from their parents for supposedly "damaging Larry's property."
The author notes that Ray was fixated by a conspiracy theory he had supposedly doctored involving former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, construction chief Frank DiTommaso, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. The children Larry had under his spell substantiated his theories.
Some of the students are still loyal to Larry, and others have been threatened should they wish to speak out. "For years, he has silenced his victims by intimidating them physically, psychologically, legally, and, when all else fails, by public shaming and harassment."
"My intentions are honorable intentions," Larry told New York Magazine.