Former New York college cult leader Lawrence Ray has been sentenced to 60 years in prison


NEW YORK — Lawrence Ray, convicted last year of extorting and torturing members of a cult — students he recruited at his daughter’s dorm — was sentenced to 60 years in prison on Friday after several of his victims endured a decade of abuse and the conditioning described had shattered her life.

US District Court Judge Lewis J. Liman described Ray’s manipulation program, which devastated the lives of his victims and their families, as a “malicious genius” that warranted a life sentence.

“It was sadism, pure and simple,” Liman said in federal court in Manhattan.

Ray was found guilty of 15 counts in April, including racketeering, sex trafficking and forced labor. His crimes spanned a decade, beginning when he moved into his daughter’s apartment on the Sarah Lawrence College campus in 2010 and quickly gained the trust of her friends, showering them with attention and manipulating them.

Some of the victims had significant psychiatric issues when they met Ray, which worsened as they came deeper under his control. They became increasingly isolated from family and friends who were not part of what their leader called “the Ray family.” Ray was a criminal who had been released from prison when he first started showing up at Sarah Lawrence’s in Bronxville, NY, just north of New York City.

The jury at Ray’s trial heard and saw shocking evidence of brainwashing attempts that led well-educated and promising young adults into lives of forced labor, prostitution and physical abuse. The 63-year-old, who was once close friends with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, had a system for breaking his followers emotionally and psychologically, convincing them that they had sabotaged him and others and that only he could help them could make amends.

Within the group, Ray pitted victims against each other, prompting them to engage in bizarre rituals — some sexual — as part of their alleged self-improvement programs. Ray collected video and audio recordings of victims confessing to crimes that never happened, planted in their minds and accepted as reality.

He threatened to turn the recordings over to law enforcement. Several victims, who were then fully indoctrinated into Ray’s agenda, said they were afraid to go to jail and displease Ray.

One of Ray’s shared downsides was convincing them that they had damaged his property and owed him money or favors in reparation. The victims described being paralyzed by their insecurity and obsession with pleasing Ray.

There were three siblings in the group, one of whom lived in the dorm. The eldest of the siblings was Felicia Rosario, an Ivy League-trained physician, when she left her residency program in California at age 29 to join Ray in New York. One of Sarah Lawrence’s students, Claudia Drury, was 19 when she met Ray. After years of manipulation, she became a prostitute, earning Ray at least $2.5 million in cash as she worked daily in New York City hotels for years while essentially homeless.

Over the years, Ray abused and tortured victims at their Westchester County dorm room, an Upper East Side apartment where several of the victims lived with him, a home in Piscataway, NJ, and his stepfather’s home in Pinehurst, NC There, he forced some of the victims to do landscaping and other unpaid chores.