NEW YORK, N.Y. – An ex-convict accused of forcing young women he met in his daughter's dormitory into prostitution or forced labor after winning their trust was in bed with a victim when he was arrested, a prosecutor said Monday as the New Jersey man lost a bid to be freed on bail.
The detail of Lawrence Ray's arrest was revealed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon as she argued against bail in Manhattan federal court. A defense lawyer argued that the charges stemmed from events long ago and that her client can't wait to contest the charges.
A woman he described as his wife was a victim, the prosecutor said, and they lived in a residence in which Ray kept a lock on the refrigerator door, restricting their access to food.
Recovery for the victims will probably be a long ordeal, the prosecutor said.
Ray, once convicted of securities fraud, had a history of failing to obey court orders, tampering with witnesses, had jumped bail once before and had used his daughter as a human shield as U.S. marshals arrested him years ago, Sassoon said.
Ray, 60, of Piscataway, New Jersey, pocketed over $1.7 million in total in 2017 and 2018 from the proceeds of a victim who worked as a prostitute, Sassoon said. And, she said, he had the money to flee because he claimed his offshore internet domain-name business was worth millions of dollars.
Ray was arrested last month on charges that alleged he used “physical, sexual and psychological abuse” to extort money from five different students at Sarah Lawrence College, a private liberal arts college outside New York City.
Authorities said he convinced them they were indebted to him, subjecting them to grueling hourslong interrogations that included sexual exploitation and humiliation as he deprived them of food and sleep.
“He essentially broke their spirit,” Sassoon said.
Two of the female victims were living with Ray when he was arrested, and one woman was in bed with him at the time, the prosecutor said.
Ray “sexually groomed” one woman, getting her to engage in sex with various men while he filmed the encounters, Sassoon said. He had sex with multiple victims himself, she said.
Meanwhile, he tried to shield himself from investigators by keeping cash in bank accounts under the names of his victims or in a backpack he carried around, Sassoon said.
Ray is charged with sex trafficking and extorition. If convicted, he could face a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison on the sex trafficking charge alone, she said.
Ray's defense lawyer, Assistant Federal Defender Marne Lenox, asked Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox to release her client to house arrest on $100,000 bail on the sex trafficking and extortion charges.
Much of the evidence, Lenox said, relates to events from over a decade ago after he went through a nasty divorce or stem from two alleged victims, one with a troubled past, including problems with drugs and another who has already signed a book deal to profit from the story.
“He wants to fight these charges and tell his side of the story,” Lenox said of Ray. “The last thing Mr. Ray wants to do is run away from this.”
Ray knew criminal charges could occur since New York magazine published an article last spring, yet he didn't flee, Lenox said.
Some of Ray's victims were his daughter's roommates, Sassoon said. Authorities said he got to know them when he moved into the students' campus housing in late 2010, presenting himself as a father figure and conducting “therapy” sessions with them.
The government proved there were no conditions of bail that would guarantee the safety of the community, the magistrate judge said.