The True Story Behind Hulu's 'Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence'

Here's everything to know about the true story behind the Sarah Lawrence College sex cult and its ringleader, including the crimes he commited and where he is now

People/February 8, 2023

By By Skyler

The following story details the disturbing case of the Sarah Lawrence sex cult and its ringleader.

Lawrence Ray, a sinister con artist also known by "Larry," finds himself at the center of Hulu's latest true crime series, Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence, an exclusive three-parter that premieres Feb. 9 on the streamer.

Using firsthand accounts and video footage from Ray himself and his survivors, the series chronicles the harrowing happenings of Ray who sexually and psychologically abused the students of the New York college, among the other young adults he lured into his manipulative circle.

The nightmare of a story began when Ray moved into his daughter Talia's dorm upon his release from prison (the first time) in 2010. He started out as a father figure and mentor to his daughter's friends, but quickly turned into their "monster" manipulator and tormentor for the 10 years that followed.

Hulu isn't the first platform to retell the disturbing case at Sarah Lawrence and its ringleader. A recently released Wondery+ podcast, titled "Devil in the Dorm," by Law & Crime, premiered on Jan. 30. It's hosted by actress Elisabeth Röhm, herself a Sarah Lawrence alum who, in a press release, says she feels "a sense of responsibility to tell this story."

The podcast digs into the case's expansive court records, navigating the many disturbing details. Röhm, as the host, provides personal reflections as a Sarah Lawrence alum.

Here's everything to know about the true story behind the case, including the crimes Ray was charged with and where he is now.

Who is Lawrence Ray?

Lawrence Ray, born Lawrence Grecco (also known as Larry), is a Bay Ridge, Brooklyn native. Although he didn't go to college, he held several jobs in various fields throughout his life.

According to New York Magazine, Ray traded stocks on Wall Street in the 1980s, albeit not having a degree. He consulted in the insurance, gambling, and construction industries. He ran a New Jersey nightclub in Scotch Plains, while also attempting to purchase Manhattan hubs the Tunnel and Limelight. "He held fundraisers for politicians, including Patrick Kennedy," notes the outlet.

Described as "chameleonic" by those who knew him, Ray embedded lies and embellishments into the real relationships he did have, both personally and professionally. He was also a man of many tales, claiming to have worked as a "clandestine agent overseas," "for the CIA in Russia and "that he'd recovered Stinger missiles on behalf of the government."

Regarding his relationships, he wed in 1988 and had two children during his marriage. He also formed a close relationship with NYPD detective Bernie Kerik, his believed "friend" until Ray faced charges as a "co-conspirator in a mafia-related pump-and-dump scheme" and Kerik failed to help him.

In 2003, Ray pleaded guilty to securities fraud. He and his wife divorced, fought for custody over their children and he was "incarcerated, paroled, and incarcerated again," per New York Magazine.

What crimes did Lawrence Ray commit?

Ray was the father of a Sarah Lawrence student who moved into his daughter's dorm room in 2010 and eventually sexually, psychologically and physically abused her schoolmates and other young people. The abuse began at Sarah Lawrence, a prestigious liberal arts college just outside of New York City when Ray began giving "therapy sessions" to his daughter's roommates, purporting to "help them with psychological problems," an indictment filed against him in 2020 said.

It was through these "sessions" that Ray laid the groundwork for psychological conditioning that would "eventually lead these young adults to become unwitting victims of sexual exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, extortion, forced labor and prostitution," FBI Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. said at the time of Ray's 2020 arrest.

According to the indictment and the evidence at trial, "Ray's tactics included sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, physical violence, threats of criminal legal action, alienating the victims from their families, and exploiting the victims' mental health vulnerabilities."

The abuse didn't just take place at the college. It continued at Ray's Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan, where several students moved in with him in 2011 — presenting himself as a father figure, a psychologist and a spiritual advisor combined.

Ray "learned intimate details about [the victims'] private lives, vulnerabilities, and mental health struggles under the pretense of helping them. Ray alienated several of the victims from their parents, and convinced several of the victims that they were 'broken' and in need of fixing by Ray," the indictment stated.

Furthermore, he manipulated the victims into admitting to things they didn't do (like poisoning him with cyanide and scaring them with legal consequences as a result); therefore, making them compensate to make up for their actions. One repayment suggestion included prostitution, which Ray said would be "fun."

How did Lawrence Ray get caught?

Ray moved into his daughter's Sarah Lawrence dorm in 2010 and spent years physically and psychologically dominating the lives of a group of students who lived there. It wasn't until the disturbing pieces were strung together in an April 2019 cover story, "The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence," in New York Magazine that sparked an FBI investigation years later. In early 2020, Ray was arrested in New Jersey.

What was Lawrence Ray charged with?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Elizabeth Williams/AP/Shutterstock (13728364b) Lawrence Ray, second from right, sits at the defense table with his attorneys during sentencing in Manhattan federal court, in New York. From left are Marne Lenox, Allegra Glashausser, Lawrence Ray and Peggy Cross-Goldenberg. Ray, an ex-convict who obtained millions of dollars by subjecting his daughter's ex-college roommates to forced labor and prostitution has been sentenced to 60 years in prison College Students Exploited, New York, United States - 20 Jan 2023

In April 2022, Ray went on trial in federal court in lower Manhattan, where a verdict was reached after about four hours of deliberation. He was charged with 15 counts of racketeering, extortion, violent assault, sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering and tax evasion.

Before imposing the sentence, Judge Lewis J. Liman said Ray used his "evil genius" to take control over young people — upon detailing that Ray's "aggravated" conduct was "all for his profit and sadistic pleasure," reported Fox News.

What was Lawrence Ray's sentence?

Following his arrest, Ray was held for three years in federal jail during the pandemic.

In January, he received a sentence of 60 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, tax evasion and money laundering offenses, per an official statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York on Jan. 20, 2023.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams described Larry as "a monster," while Judge Lewis J. Liman described his crimes as "particularly heinous." CBS News reported that "Ray expressed no remorse" when given a chance to speak, "but decried his prison conditions and physical ailments."

In addition to the prison term, Ray was sentenced to a lifetime of supervised release.

Where is Lawrence Ray now?

While the Federal District Court in Manhattan ultimately sentenced Ray to 60 years in prison — despite prosecutors asking for a life sentence, per the New York Times — defense lawyers asked that he be sentenced to 15 years in prison due to Ray himself formerly being subject to physical, verbal and sexual abuse while growing up in Brooklyn.

Currently, Ray is in prison, making his return behind bars for the second time since finishing his prison stint in 2010 at New Jersey's Northern State Prison for a securities fraud conviction, prior to moving into his daughter's dorm room at Sarah Lawrence.

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