Sarah Lawrence College dad pleads not guilty in sex trafficking, extortion case
Lawrence Ray was charged with sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor.
The father of a Sarah Lawrence College student pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor and other offenses in Manhattan federal court.
Lawrence Ray is accused of targeting his daughter's roommates and subjecting them "to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse."
Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that some of the material they have gathered from the alleged victims includes sexually explicit images and Ray berating them. Prosecutors also revealed they have interviewed 17 witnesses and issued more than 100 subpoenas as part of the ongoing investigation.
The allegations stem from so-called therapy sessions he provided to Sarah Lawrence College students after he moved into his daughter's on-campus housing in 2010. Ray moved in after he was released from a prison sentence for security fraud. He moved into a one-bedroom apartment with several of the roommates on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 2011.
Ray presented himself as a father figure to the students and learned "intimate details about their private lives, vulnerabilities, and mental health struggles under the pretense of helping them" during the sessions, according to the indictment.
Yet instead of helping, he alienated them from their parents and convinced several that they were "broken" and "in need of fixing by Ray," the indictment claimed.
In some cases, he allegedly made up lies about the students and when they denied it, he would subject them to interrogations that included "sleep deprivation, psychological and sexual humiliation, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, physical violence, and threats of criminal legal action" -- actions that then garnered false confessions, according to the indictment.
Ray used the confessions to extort money from the students and for those who couldn't pay, he ordered them to drain hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their parents' savings accounts, open lines of credit, engage in real estate fraud and in one case earn money through prostitution, according to the indictment.
He was arrested Tuesday in Piscataway, New Jersey, and was with one of the students identified in the indictment and one of his daughter's roommates at the time, authorities said.
Sarah Lawrence College called the charges "serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting," according to a statement from the school sent to ABC News.
The statement also noted that the school conducted an investigation into the accusations against Ray in 2019, after a lengthy profile appeared in New York Magazine's The Cut, which detailed his dealings with the Sarah Lawrence College students. The school found the investigation "did not substantiate those specific claims," according to the statement. A spokesperson for the college did not respond to ABC News when asked what specific claims were investigated.
In that profile from The Cut, Ray denied mostly all the accusations and did not talk about his past, but did admit to taking money from one of his alleged victims that she earned through escorting.
Ray is being held without bail. The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.