Judge Has No Mercy for ‘Evil’ Sex Cult Leader Larry Ray’s Pathetic Pity Party

Friday’s sentencing caps the downfall of a man who once boasted about his connections to Rudy Giuliani, former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and infamous mobsters.

Daily Beast/January 20, 2023

By Pilar Melendez

After several former Sarah Lawrence college students gave harrowing accounts Friday of how 63-year-old Lawrence “Larry” Ray moved into their sophomore dorm room in 2010 and fomented conditions that amounted to an abusive sex cult, Ray indicated he wanted to speak.

Struggling to get up from a chair in a beige prison jumpsuit, Ray looked straight at federal Judge Lewis J. Liman as he described how “hard” the last three years in jail have been for him—how he cannot sleep because of a mysterious illness, how he deserves sympathy because the only three relatives he was still in touch with died while he was incarcerated.

“I lost my father, my stepfather, and my stepmother all in one week. They are gone,” Ray said while choking up. “I didn't get to say goodbye.”

But not once during Ray’s two-minute speech did he mention his victims or the reason he was in court Friday: to be sentenced for physically, emotionally, and sexually abusing several college-aged students for almost a decade.

As he whined to the judge about the ringing in his ears and the lesions on his body that he can’t have checked due to jail medical resources, four of his victims sat behind him, shaking their heads and looking at the floor.

In the end, however, Judge Liman did not buy Ray’s pity party, questioning whether his medical conditions were even real before sentencing him to 60 years in prison, effectively a life sentence.

Ray was convicted last year of sex trafficking, extortion, money laundering, and other charges after sexually, physically, and psychologically abusing multiple college students he met at the liberal arts school in New York's Westchester County. He was also convicted of laundering millions of dollars from one woman he forced into sex work for at least four years—a situation that resulted in a horrifying episode of torture when she did not meet his monetary demands.

“His evil withered us,” sex trafficking victim Claudia Drury, 31, said in a statement that was read during the sentencing proceedings Friday. “I feel profoundly violated in a way that I cannot fully communicate.”

As he was escorted out of the courtroom Friday, two of his victims held each other with their eyes closed. Behind them, a section of the courtroom designated for Ray’s family sat empty.

The sentencing marks the end of the harrowing saga first detailed in a 2019 New York magazine article—and the downfall of a man who once boasted about his connections to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and infamous mobsters.

It also brings a sense of redemption for several of Ray’s victims who testified in court about how the man they once admired subjected them to years of abuse for even the smallest mistake fabricated wrongdoing.

During Friday’s hearing in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors argued that Ray should be sentenced to life in prison and $5.5 million in restitution for his “heinous” crimes. Ray’s defense, however, argued he only deserved 15 years.

Another of Ray’s victims, Santos Rosario, described how he was robbed of ten years of his life. He described being abused physically and emotionally and described the pain he suffered knowing that he also introduced his sisters to Ray.

“I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college. I was happy. Then I met Larry Ray,” he told the court. “The next decade was misery. My family was ripped apart.”

Daniel Levin, who did not testify in the trial but was mentioned frequently by prosecutors, also made a statement urging the maximum sentence.

“Lawrence Ray made me mouth a dildo and asked if I still thought I was gay. He put a garotte around my testicles and pulled my tongue with pliers. He said he knew better than I did,” Levin said.

“They’ll call it a sex cult. But that’s a dumbing down. People will call us weak or naive. Look at the reality. We were intelligent, just like you. What happened was because of one man. Lawrence is not so special. He is a petty man,” he added.

Prosecutors said that after Ray moved into his daughter Talia’s sophomore dorm in 2010, he embarked on a “campaign of terror” against her roommates, instilling a “climate of fear” under the guise of self-help.

Along the way, prosecutors argued, Ray “intentionally inflicted brutal and lifelong harm on innocent victims that he groomed and abused into submission.” Prosecutors said that while the victims “descended into self-hatred, self-harm, and suicidal attempts under his coercive control, the evidence showed that [Ray] took sadistic pleasure in their pain and enjoyed the fruits of their suffering.”

“He sought to convince his victims that they were worthless, undeserving of love, and irredeemable, and until his arrest in this case, he was succeeding,” prosecutors said in a sentencing guidelines memo. “In order to maintain his control and the lifestyle it ensured, he obstructed justice and threatened his victims with retaliation. He has shown no remorse, accepted no responsibility, and impeded the prosecution of this case, including by disrupting the trial and prolonging the trauma to his victims.”

Prosecutors also argued that to control the group, Ray enlisted the help of his “lieutenant” Isabella Pollok, who had been friends with the group and had lived among them in the Sarah Lawrence dorm. In September, Pollock pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge after admitting to a federal judge she took part in financial transactions “generated by illegal activity.” Pollok now faces five years in prison.

Pollok’s mother, who previously said her daughter was brainwashed, told The Daily Beast after the sentencing that Ray’s self-pitying speech proved he had no remorse. “Since he is 63, he’s not... gonna live to 103 yrs since he is so ‘sick,’” Cynthia Pollok said via text message. “My baby girl was only 19 when she met that piece of shit!!”

During the trial, three victims testified about Ray’s abuse, which included being forced to admit to crimes they did not commit after hours of grueling interrogation, paying Ray thousands for their alleged mistakes, and being subjected to verbal and physical abuse as an added punishment.

Drury described to jurors how she transformed from a Sarah Lawrence student into a New York City sex worker who was forced to give all her profits to Ray. She said that Ray had made her believe that she had damaged so much of his property—and even tried to poison him—that she had to spend four years paying him back.

(None of those allegations proved to be true.)

In arguing for leniency, Ray’s federal defender Marne Lenox said Ray suffered his own childhood abuse and is remorseful. She argued Ray shouldn’t get a life sentence if his case were to be compared to other cases of similar nature—mentioning how NXIVM’s Keith Raniere and R. Kelly did not get such a harsh punishment.

“Mr. Ray has been punished, and he will continue to be punished,” she added.

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