Neighbors saw ‘half-dressed’ woman landscaping at accused sex cult leader’s home

The New York Post/February 12, 2020

By Kevin Sheehan, Gabrielle Fonrouge and Natalie Musumeci

The New Jersey property where accused Sarah Lawrence College cult leader Lawrence Ray was arrested has become a compound with several mysterious new buildings and a scantily clad woman doing landscaping work at all hours since Ray moved in, neighbors said Wednesday.

Ray is accused of using psychological threats and coercion to enslave his daughter’s former college roommates — including forcing one into sex work and others to do landscaping, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Neighbors of the Piscataway home where Ray lived with a pal and at least two young women say the constant construction and saucily dressed workforce raised red flags.

“One girl used to work outside half-dressed,” said a neighbor, who would only identify himself as Mike, noting that the woman wore “short shorts hiked up and a half shirt” and was seen “gardening” and “grading soil” several times a week.

“They would tear it up, fix it, then tear it up again,” Mike said of the yard. “Lots of people complained to the town about it. None of the neighbors know what the hell they’re doing.”

And the weird work wasn’t limited to daylight hours, according to neighbor Quinn Bolivar, who said he suspected something shady was happening.

“They’re out working in the yard to 3, 4 o’clock in the morning,” he said, adding that “They’ve plowed” the yard “and redone it like 12 times.”

“The projects they do around the house are very odd,” he said.

Ray, an ex-convict and father of a former Sarah Lawrence College student, was arrested by a joint NYPD-FBI task force Tuesday at the home for allegedly preying on students at the elite Bronxville school and extorting some $500,000 from them over the last decade.

At least one former college roommate of his daughter was at the home when he was arrested, sources previously told The Post.

Federal prosecutors said in a bombshell indictment that Ray subjected his victims “to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse.”

According to the indictment, in 2013, Ray and some of the victims traveled to Pinehurst, North Carolina, for the purpose of “making physical improvements on private property” owned by a family member of Ray’s.

While living there over the course of several months, Ray forced three of the victims to “perform manual labor” on the property, including the installation of an irrigation system, prosecutors say.

Ray’s New Jersey neighbors say there has been lots of construction activity in the backyard of the Holly Lane home behind an 8-foot-high wooden fence.

Bolivar called the home “an abnormal house” and the people who live there “strange.”

Ray has lived at the home — owned by Scott Muller, according to records — for more than a year, the homeowner said, but neighbors say he has lived there for five years.

The homeowner, who would only identify himself to The Post as Scott, called Ray a “friend,” and denied that any illegal activity went on at his home.

“I heard about [the allegations], but I mean that kind of thing don’t happen here,” Scott said. “I mean what happened in the past, I don’t know, you know? That kind of thing doesn’t happen, you know, under my roof anyway.”

Scott, who said he used to work at a club that Ray ran about 20 years ago, called Ray “a nice guy” and “a good friend to me.”

Ray’s next-door neighbor, Bill Dubrow, said Ray lived at the home with Scott and two women a former Sarah Lawrence student named Isabella and Felicia, who he said was a doctor.

He identified the woman who did yard work as Isabella, calling her “a work horse.”

Both women were named as some of Ray’s victims in a in an April New York Magazine expose on his alleged crimes.

They were both in court Wednesday at Ray’s arraignment in Manhattan federal court, sitting next to a cadre of about 10 young people calling themselves Ray’s “students.”

Ray — who was the best man at the wedding of former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik — allegedly embarked on his sick scheme in 2010, when he moved into an on-campus pad in Yonkers where his then-sophomore daughter lived with seven female and male roommates.

Ray began “therapy” sessions with some of the roommates and “presented himself as a father figure” to vulnerable students, prosecutors said.

In the summer of 2011, several of the roommates lived with Ray in a one-bedroom Upper East Side apartment, according to the feds.

The alleged predator “lectured the victims on his personal philosophy and conducted his ‘therapy’ session with the victims, during which he learned intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities, and mental health struggles under the pretense of helping them,” prosecutors said.

The feds say that Ray “alienated” the victims from their parents and convinced them that they were “broken.”

He solicited false confessions from his victims and made them make payments “they did not actually owe and could not possibly afford,” US Attorney Geoffrey Berman had told reporters.

Ray was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.

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