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‘Cult’ leader Larry Ray sentenced after sex trafficking and racketeering conviction

Larry Ray has been sentenced to 60 years behind bars following his April conviction on sex trafficking and racketeering, in addition to other charges.

Ray, whose original name was Lawrence Grecco, tricked students at Sarah Lawrence College, an elite college for liberal arts in New York, into a group that resembled a cult-like environment, including sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and harassment.

Judge Lewis Liman said it was “sadism, pure and simple,” calling the 63-year-old an “evil genius,” according to The Guardian.

An April 2019 feature in New York magazine prompted an investigation by law enforcement. Ray’s trial in Manhattan federal court lasted four weeks. He had a number of medical issues during the trial.

He moved into his daughter’s dorm room in 2010 and then orchestrated “therapy” sessions with a number of her roommates pretending to help them with psychological problems, creating an image of himself as a “father figure”.

Several roommates then moved into a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan the next summer, where abuses would occur, they said in the indictment against Ray.

Ray convinced them to share “intimate” information about themselves and “alienated” a number of them from their parents, arguing that they were “broken” and that he could fix them, charging documents revealed.

After getting their trust, Ray would begin “interrogation sessions” which included verbal and physical abuse. He also made false claims about them during this time, such as property damage and a poisoning attempt against him.

A male victim had a knife put to his throat by Ray until he admitted fault. He also choked another male victim unconscious.

 (Getty)
(Getty)

He threw a female victim to the floor after she returned with food that had grown cold. He made three female victims work at a North Carolina property owned by his family, keeping food locked away and forcing them to continue working “in the middle of the night” as well as to sleep outside despite the heat, prosecutors revealed in legal filings.

Claudia Drury worked as a prostitute between 2014 and 2018 to repay Ray for what he claimed was property damage.

“I became a prostitute,” she testified.

“It was Larry’s suggestion,” she said, according to The New York Times.

Ms Drury said Ray threatened to waterboard her after she said she told a client about her life.

“It was unrelenting sadism,” a statement by Ms Drury read in court by a friend said.

“It was hell – it was a deliberate, educated, and sustained campaign to break me,” she added. “Every time I was forced to prostitute myself … I felt myself getting more numb.”

“I barely have the energy to exist day to day,” she said.

Santos Rosario, in a victim-impact statement, said that “he drove me to attempt suicide more than once and at one point, I was contemplating it daily”.

The prosecution argued for a life sentence, saying that “over a period of years, he intentionally inflicted brutal and life-long harm on innocent victims that he groomed and abused into submission”.

“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,” they said in legal filings.

They said he wanted money and “enjoyed being cruel”.

“It is obvious, for example, that his victims, without any experience with physical labor or construction equipment, had no real chance of making productive financial improvements to the property in North Carolina – and yet the defendant forced them to toil senselessly under punishing conditions for weeks on end simply to revel in their Sisyphean struggle,” the prosecutors added.

“When his victims expressed anguish or guilt, he feigned sympathy and twisted the knife in deeper,” they said. “He baited his victims to attempt suicide and then stymied their recoveries, while pretending to be the only one concerned with their wellbeing.”

The defence team argued that anything longer than 15 years would be “unnecessary,” adding that Ray was brought up in an abusive environment.

His grandmother struck him with a “whip intended for severe physical punishment” and he was sexually assaulted by his grandfather, the defence added.

They said that the lack of personal support for Ray at the court spoke “volumes” – meaning that he’s alone.

“These three years I’ve spent in jail have been hell,” Ray told Judge Liman, noting a number of supposed medical issues. “Being in jail has been horrible.”