A former Sarah Lawrence student has been charged with conspiring with an alleged sex cult leader who prosecutors say moved into his daughter’s college dorm before pimping out her friends.
Isabella Pollok, 29, of Staten Island has been charged with racketeering, extortion and sex trafficking conspiracies, according to an indictment rewritten to add her as defendant and unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
She was charged with conspiring with Lawrence Ray, 61, who has has been held without bail since pleading not guilty to multiple charges after his arrest last February. Both could face life in prison if they are convicted.
Authorities say Ray started his scheme in 2010 after he moving in with his daughter Talia, Pollok and other women at Sarah Lawrence, a private liberal arts college outside New York City.
He presented himself as a father figure to the roommates, conducting ‘therapy’ sessions with them, prosecutors say. He then alienated them from their parents, persuading some of them to move into a Manhattan apartment and convincing them they were ‘broken,’ according to court papers.
After winning their trust, he would turn on them and accuse them of trying to poison him or damage property before forcing them to provide false confessions and make payments they couldn’t afford, prosecutors have said. Authorities had said there were as many as seven victims.
Ray is said to have recruited Pollok to join his criminal scheme after moving in with her and some of their alleged victims, first at the Westchester County school and later at locations in Manhattan; Pinehurst, North Carolina; Piscataway, New Jersey.
Pollok, who has pleaded not guilty, had initially been viewed as a victim of Ray’s crimes; she was just 19 when the two met and she soon cut ties with her loved ones to be with him.
That she is now being accused of conspiring with Ray has shocked her family. Her aunt, Liz Jeffrey, told The New York Times Monday that her niece is a ‘victim’, adding: ‘I don’t care what they found. It is all under duress. She has been under his spell for 10 years.’
Pollock herself had told New York Magazine after Ray’s arrest: ‘I’m 19, I was having a lot of difficulty making sense of things, I wasn’t in a good place. He started to help me kind of process and make sense of a lot of things I just couldn’t make sense of.’
Isabella Pollok (shown) was Talia’s best friend. In 2010, Ray started sleeping in her room, claiming she needed him because she was going through a break-up
Former federal prosecutor Taryn Merkl said prosecutors will look at ‘where duress ends, and victimization can no longer be the understood reason for behavior that crosses the line over to more deliberate criminality.’
In March last year officials had suggested Pollock – who still lived with Ray along with another woman at the time of his arrest – was a victim.
Prosecutor Danielle R. Sassoon told the court: ‘Both are women he exploited and abused for years, including physical abuse and sexual exploitation.’
In September 2010, Ray moved in to his daughter Talia’s student apartment in Sarah Lawrence College, New York. They are shown when she was a teenager
Officials have not said why they have now changed their minds. A judge ordered Wednesday that Pollok undergo a psychological evaluation.
Prosecutors earlier detailed how Ray sent messages to Pollok and another woman ‘plainly designed to tamper with witnesses and deter these women from cooperating in the government’s investigation’.
The prosecutor added: ‘Ray also amassed videos that contain graphic sexual content of these two women, including sexual acts performed at Ray’s direction that appear designed to debase and control them.
‘Most troubling, the calls suggest that Ray’s ongoing communications are designed to ensure the ongoing loyalty of these women and to inhibit their ability to detach from the influence he commanded over them for nearly a decade.’
Ray, allegedly assisted by Pollok and others, subjected victims to sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse to extract false confessions before extorting them to perform unpaid manual labor, or, in one case, cause a woman to engage in prostitution to generate revenue, the indictment said.
The indictment said Ray pocketed nearly all of the millions of dollars generated by the woman’s acts of prostitution after he and Pollok pressured her through force, threats of force, fraud and coercion.
This is the student housing where Ray lived with the students in 2010. He at first charmed them by cooking them meals and taking them out but soon started controlling them with ‘group’ therapy and counselling sessions
The home (pictured) where Lawrence Ray lived in for several years in Piscataway, New Jersey
Prosecutors say they have tens of thousands of video files and more than 150,000 audio files among over 15 terabytes of electronic evidence against Ray.
Investigators found ledgers at his residence showing that he earned an ‘astonishing’ amount in running the cult.
He is said to have extorted nearly $1 million from several students. He earned over $700,000 through one victim’s prostitution in 2017 and more than $1million in 2018 through the same victim, Sassoon said.
Prosecutors believe the woman was seeing more and more clients to meet Ray’s demands. The cash payments by this woman were collected by a female associate of Ray and deposited into bank accounts that he had access to, prosecutors said.
He took the private journals of his victims and elicited false confessions from them to keep his followers close, it is alleged.
Prosecutors say he was able to run his cult for so long because he convinced victims that they owed him money for property damage or claimed that they poisoned him.
Prosecutors say they have tens of thousands of video files and more than 150,000 audio files among over 15 terabytes of electronic evidence against Ray, pictured
Ray was arrested in February last year at a New Jersey property where he lived with two women, including Pollok. The other woman has not been charged.
At the time of his arrest, he was found in bed with an alleged female victim who he was the legal ‘guardian’ of at the time.
Ray told investigators he was like a father figure to the woman in bed with him and allegedly likened her to a daughter.
But investigators say they have evidence including videos showing how Ray ‘sexually groomed’ the woman and filmed her having sex with other men.
One video shows Ray calling the victim he was found in bed with a criminal and berating her as she sobbed. Another video showed him grabbing her by the hair and forcing her out of the house, prosecutors said.
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, according to the indictment.
‘He belittled and humiliated them. He broke their spirits,’ Sassoon said describing how Ray ran his ring of followers.
Ray subjected his victims to ‘sexual and psychological manipulation and physical abuse’ from 2010 to 2018, indictment stated.
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, Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon said in March last year.
Authorities say Ray started his scheme in 2010 after he moving in with his daughter Talia, pictured, Pollok and other women at Sarah Lawrence
A woman identified as the aunt of Isabella Pollok leaves Manhattan Federal Court after a preliminary hearing for Lawrence Ray on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in New York
He seemed to smirk in court as prosecutors built their case against the alleged scammer.
The investigation was prompted by a 2019 article in New York magazine. After Ray’s arrest, the magazine reported that Pollok and another woman who was living with Ray when he was arrested showed up to support him at his initial court appearance.
Pollok was freed on $100,000 bail, with electronic monitoring and a warning to have no contact with victims. Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ray was previously known for his role in helping to send former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was a close confidant of Rudy Giuliani, to prison.
At the time, Ray, who had been the best man at Kerik’s wedding, was under indictment in a $40 million stock scam. The felon also reportedly had connections to mobsters and intelligence officers.
Kerik told DailyMailTV that his former friend is a ‘predator’.
He said: ‘He’s a conman. He is somebody that’s a detriment to society. Hopefully, justice will take its course and he’ll be held accountable for his crimes.’