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Feds Seek Life Sentence for ‘Sadistic’ Larry Ray: Sarah Lawrence Dad ‘Must Be Incapacitated’ for ‘Heinous’ Sex Trafficking Crimes

Larry Ray over blue

Larry Ray in a Sarah Lawrence College T-shirt.

Federal prosecutors want to put convicted sex trafficker Lawrence “Larry” Ray behind bars for the rest of his life for the “heinous” crimes that he inflicted on his daughter’s friends at Sarah Lawrence College and others.

“Over a period of years, he intentionally inflicted brutal and lifelong harm on innocent victims that he groomed and abused into submission,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie Bracewell wrote in a 17-page sentencing memo. “Once he had established control over his victims, he exploited them for his own profit through extortion, sex trafficking, and forced labor.”

Ray also should owe his victims more than $5.5 million in restitution, more than $761,000 in unpaid federal taxes, and other financial penalties, prosecutors say.

“Sadistic Pleasure in Their Pain”

When he first entered into the lives of his victims in the autumn of 2010, the Sarah Lawrence father had just gotten out of jail on unrelated charges related to a child custody battle over his daughter, Talia Ray. The daughter had invited her father to visit their communal dorm, where he insinuated himself into the lives of several of the roommates: including Daniel Levin, Isabella PollokClaudia Drury, and Santos Rosario, among others.

Rosario would eventually invite his sisters Felicia Rosario and Yalitza Rosario — who were not Sarah Lawrence students — into Ray’s circle, and all three three siblings would testify against him at his trial in early 2022.

In courtroom testimony and public statements, Ray’s victims told similar stories: Ray initially charmed them and earned their trust, before emotionally, physically and sexually exploiting them. They said that Ray made them feel indebted to him — to the tune of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars — by making them falsely confess to imagined crimes. Ray would make his victims believe they poisoned him, conspired against his family and damaged his property.

Ray compulsively recorded those false confessions on videotapes, audiotapes, written documents and emails, which were ultimately used against him at his trial. Then, he would brutally collect those “debts” through physical abuse, blackmail, forced labor, and for one victim, compelling her into prostitution, prosecutors say. A federal jury took only a few hours before convicting him of all of 15 charges against him, including racketeering, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering, and tax evasion.

Levin, a young poet at the time, came to see the group as a “cult” and wrote about it in a memoir named after their dorm: Slonim Woods 9. The defendant himself referred to them as the “Ray family” and in one of the trial’s many references to organized crime, claimed to be related to Al Capone. Trial evidence showed that Ray used Saran Wrap as a makeshift garrote on Levin’s testicles, pulled on his tongue with a set of pliers, and threatened him with a hammer.

Santos Rosario, Dan Levin and Claudia Drury

Ray’s victims Santos Rosario, Dan Levin and Claudia Drury. (Photo via DOJ)

Pollok, once described by her peers as an introvert, became a Ray protégée and was ultimately prosecuted and his “lieutenant” and co-conspirator. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September.

“While the defendant’s victims descended into self-hatred, self-harm, and suicidal attempts under his coercive control, the evidence showed that the defendant took sadistic pleasure in their pain and enjoyed the fruits of their suffering,” the sentencing memo states.

“An Insatiable Desire to Make His Victims Pay”

Ray’s campaign of physical, emotional and sexual exploitation took its toll. All three Rosario siblings attempted suicide, and Ray himself estimated in an interview with New York Magazine that there were 12 suicide attempts within the group in total. One of the young men in Ray’s orbit killed himself before trial: Iban Goicoechea, whom prosecutors did not hesitate to call Ray’s “victim.”

“While the precipitating cause is unknown, around the time of his suicide, Goicoechea was still in touch with the defendant and convinced—as other victims were at the time of their suicide attempts—that the defendant was a positive influence on his life,” the sentencing memo states. “It is plain that the defendant harmed Goicoechea and exploited his mental health vulnerabilities, just as he did with his victims who were able to put their experiences into words on the stand.”

As the victims suffered, prosecutors said, Ray got rich. Maritza Rosario, the mother of three of the victims, said she gave her children approximately $150,000 to repay their supposed debts to Ray. Though he persistently blurred the sexual boundaries of his victims, Ray crossed the line into criminal sex trafficking only for one: Claudia Drury, whom he forced into sex work for four years.

Drury testified that she made $2.5 million over that time frame, all of which went to Ray.

Claudia Drury photo

Claudia Drury (Photo via DOJ)

A “conservative” estimate documented in the ledgers shows that $2 million of that amount was paid in cash, prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo.

“He extracted millions of dollars in extortion and sex trafficking proceeds from Claudia Drury, but the money was never enough, and at times it was besides the point: the defendant displayed an insatiable desire to make his victims pay, in both body and spirit,” his sentencing memo states. “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. 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. Through his conduct, he has shown that he is a danger to others, is incapable of contrition, and must be incapacitated.”

In his defense sentencing memo, Ray blamed his crimes on his “traumatic” childhood. His attorneys claim that the “physical, sexual and psychological abuse” he suffered growing up bears as a “striking resemblance” to what he inflicted on other young men and women. For example, defense attorneys say, Ray did not accidentally accuse his victims of trying to poison him.

“Lawrence Ray’s fixation with poisoning is rooted in reality,” the defense memo begins. “While poisoning is, to most, the stuff of fairytales, for Larry Ray, poisoning is real. He believes, because he’s seen it before. He knows people are capable of intentionally infecting others’ food because his mother did it.”

Prosecutors counter that it’s difficult to take Ray at his word about his upbringing because “there is no way to corroborate this account.” Ray disrupted his trial multiple times with supposed medical emergencies, which a medical expert would later diagnose as possible “malingering.”

Ray’s sentencing has been slated for Friday, Jan. 20.

Read the government’s sentencing memo below.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."