Hulu’s new docuseries Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawerence brings the story of Larry Ray’s manipulation and exploitation of a group of Sarah Lawerence students to the small screen.
The story was brought to light in 2019 in a New York Magazine feature story(Opens in a new tab) which led to an FBI investigation resulting in Ray being sentenced(Opens in a new tab) to 60 years in prison for sex trafficking, extortion, conspiracy, and forced labor last month. The three-part docuseries features first-hand accounts of Ray’s abuse that spanned a decade. Here’s the true story behind the documentary:
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Who are the victims?
Ray first met the group of sophomores at Sarah Lawerence through his daughter Talia, herself a student at the New York liberal arts college. After his release from prison in the fall of 2010, Ray moved into Talia’s dorm, inserted himself into her friends’ lives, and gained their trust through “therapy sessions” he conducted. Ray’s victims included Talia’s boyfriend at the time, and her roommates Santos Rosario, Daniel Levin, Isabella Pollok, and Claudia Drury. Later Rosario introduced Ray to his sisters Felicia Rosario and Yalitza Rosario, who also fell under his influence.
After becoming a confidant of the young people, he convinced Talia and her friends to move into a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side of New York where his relationship with the students escalated. He mentally and physically tortured them, coerced them into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit through sleep-derivation, verbal abuse, and sexual humiliation, and extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from them and their families. He forced one young woman into sex work and pocketed the hundreds of thousands of dollars she earned from it.
Who is Larry Ray?
Ray’s sphere of influence and expert manipulation extended beyond the Sarah Lawerence students. Prior to his involvement with them, the Brooklyn native became close to former NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik, a connection that lead to a stint as an FBI informant for a pump-and-dump stock scheme operated by a capo in the Gambino family.
“Larry Ray is a psychotic con man who has victimized every friend he’s ever had. It’s been close to 20 years since I last heard from him, yet his reign of terror continues,” said Kerik in the New York Magazine article.
FBI reports revealed that Ray was an unreliable informant and may have in fact used the role to cover his own complicity in the Gambino stock fraud scheme. In 2000, he was charged for his involvement in the scheme and was sentenced to five years’ probation. By 2007, Ray would again serve time due to a child custody dispute, which prosecutors argued was a violation of his parole. It was upon his release from that charge that he preyed upon the Sarah Lawerence students.
Where is everybody?
According to New York Magazine, it was Levin who first put the pieces together that Roy’s treatment of the group was characteristic of a cult. By 2016, Yalitza and Levin had escaped from Roy’s control, but the others remained under his dominance until his arrest in 2020. What began as a normal college experience ended in unimaginable horror for this group of students.