Larry Ray arrived in a federal courtroom Tuesday carrying the usual khaki shirt and pants issued to inmates awaiting trial. He glanced at his girlfriend and co-defendant, Isabella Pollock, who was sitting towards the again of the courtroom, and seated his imposing physique down between his attorneys. It was the primary time I’d seen Ray since February 2020, after he was arrested and charged with a slew of crimes due to a New York Magazine article Ezra Marcus and I wrote about him. We detailed how Ray had spent years psychologically and sexually abusing his daughter’s associates, a few of whom he’d met whereas residing in his daughter’s dorm room at Sarah Lawrence College. I had interviewed Ray at size for the story, and, as I sat ten toes away from him, I puzzled whether or not he would acknowledge me by means of my masks if he rotated. However he by no means did.
Ray is scheduled to face trial in February on racketeering, cash laundering, compelled labor, and sex-trafficking costs. The 61-year-old is accused of “sexually grooming,” within the phrases of prosecutors, his daughter’s associates, with whom he lived on and off for years, and coercing no less than one them into intercourse work and taking her earnings. Tuesday’s court docket listening to was, partly, to handle whether or not Ray’s protection crew may subpoena the medical recordsdata of his alleged victims, together with data from family-therapy classes.
After I inform those that I spent a substantial period of time with Larry, as I knew him again then, they virtually at all times ask some model of the query “Did you see his attraction?” The straightforward reply is not any. By the point we met, I used to be nicely acquainted with Larry’s methods, although I gleaned traces of his charisma. He exuded a specific type of tristate-area machismo that was tempered by a shocking politeness. For instance, he appeared genuinely involved once I advised him a beloved one was scheduled to have surgical procedure and was certain to observe up the following day. He additionally performed up his contradictions. A supposed Marine who bragged about studying Marcus Aurelius, a person who worshipped legislation enforcement however railed towards the Man, a salt-of-the-earth Jersey boy who had tales to inform about Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert De Niro, Rudy Giuliani, and Mario Cuomo in addition to seemingly each shady determine who had handed by means of the Lincoln Tunnel within the Nineteen Nineties. I perceive why these contradictions could have felt outré to varsity sophomores. He appealed to them as a result of he supplied fatherly steerage, free steak dinners, and tales of journey. Larry was proof that life past their liberal-arts campus may very well be exhilarating.
On a March afternoon in 2019, I sat down for a day of writing when my telephone began vibrating. “Blocked,” learn the caller ID. I had been reporting on Larry for months (and Ezra had executed so for even longer), however had not but reached out to him. A paranoid conspiracy theorist, Larry was precisely the kind of one that would name from a blocked quantity. I answered. “I hear you’ve been asking individuals about me,” he mentioned in the identical voice I’d heard in a now-deleted video Larry had posted to YouTube. Within the video, Larry interrogates Claudia, considered one of his daughter’s roommates, drawing a false confession out of her for poisoning him. Now, the identical voice — nasal, sluggish, withdrawn — was in my ear. “I heard that Ezra was doing a narrative about me being a cult chief,” he mentioned, laughing as if it was an absurd premise.
Over the following month, I spent about 12 hours speaking to Larry, interviewing him twice in individual. The expertise was unsettling and, as somebody who had spent months studying how he had earned his daughter’s associates’ belief solely to govern them and their households for cash and pleasure, unfulfilling. Larry was almost impenetrable. Hopped up on amphetamines, he strung collectively hours of unintelligible ramblings that at all times circled again to an elaborate conspiracy concept towards him involving former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik brainwashing his daughter’s roommates to poison him. He frequently lower me off as I used to be asking a query to supply clauses affected by indefinite pronouns that added as much as nothing. After I may decipher his non sequiturs, they typically amounted to imprecise assaults on individuals from his previous. I assumed he was attempting to discredit potential sources: members of the family, ex-girlfriends, attorneys, his former followers, former associates, and a former landlord. These individuals have been unreliable, liars, mentally unstable, or brokers of Kerik.
Late in our reporting, Ezra and I obtained a psychological analysis of Larry performed throughout a 2005 child-custody battle along with his ex-wife. “If [Larry] didn’t want to reply a query, he would by no means overtly refuse,” it learn. Getting a straight reply from Larry was like attempting to catch a feather in a hurricane. Whether or not on the telephone or in individual, he obfuscated and deflected. “We’ll get to that,” was a standard response. “What do you suppose?” was one other. Ezra had heard a narrative about Larry working an undercover operation for the FBI (or was it the CIA? Or the Protection Intelligence Company?) on a yacht in New York Harbor. It was a tantalizing lead that appeared far-fetched, however with Larry you by no means actually knew what was actual and what was faux. After I requested Larry about it, he paused for a very long time and responded, “What sort of yacht?” One other time, I requested Larry how he’d met Gorbachev’s interpreter. Larry’s response: “On foot.”
I’d learn court docket transcripts relationship again to a 2000 case through which Larry pleaded responsible to securities fraud in a mob-connected inventory pump-and-dump scheme. At his sentencing listening to, Larry’s lawyer argued that his shopper was “a scientific oddity and a medical thriller” whose “preposterous and certainly unexplainable habits” in court docket was a results of mind fog. Every time we ended our conversations, I used to be left questioning if Larry actually did have mind fog or if there was some engineering behind the entire dross, drawing out our conversations, dodging each query I requested him, in an effort to govern me.
“His energy and management are exhibited by means of the method of carrying down the opposite individual to the purpose of sheer exhaustion, the place one should acknowledge that he has no management over the scenario. However Mr. Ray has the management,” the psychologist wrote in an outline that completely correlated with my very own expertise. “He is ready to manipulate and management virtually any scenario through which he finds himself … Mr. Ray is superb at what he does.”
Daniel Barban Levin, one of many victims Larry met at Sarah Lawrence and who just lately wrote a book about his experience, as soon as advised us that probably the most harmful factor somebody might be round Larry is well mannered. That evaluation resonated with me. Our second face-to-face interview at a midtown photograph shoot for our story, then dinner, lasted greater than three hours, and I used to be exhausted by the top. As we have been strolling up Park Avenue, Larry supplied to provide me a trip house to Brooklyn. At that second, I noticed a subway entrance, mentioned that this was my prepare (it was not), and scurried down the steps.
Making an attempt to get away from Larry jogged my memory of one thing else Dan had mentioned. Larry’s “remedy classes” solely ended when Larry extracted false confessions from his victims. “It was this endurance take a look at,” Dan as soon as advised us. “Larry could be interrogating you. Should you have been resisting it or weren’t saying what he needed to listen to, this may go on for eight or 9 hours.” By the top of my interactions with Larry, I understood why somebody would deceive make him cease.
Buried deep in my interviews with Larry have been a handful of showing moments, together with one through which he appeared to freely admit to probably the most damning allegations in our article. For years, Larry had extracted cash from his victims and their households by claiming they owed him for injury they’d executed to his property (an residence he didn’t personal and a home owned by his stepfather). The injury may vary from portray tape ($9.87) to a fuel vary ($6,780) or extra. Dad and mom estimated they gave tons of of hundreds to their youngsters so they might pay Larry for this “broken” property. When dad and mom stopped paying Larry, he turned to their children. Prosecutors allege that Larry coerced Claudia, considered one of his daughter’s roommates, into intercourse work with a view to pay for injury he claimed she did to Larry’s stepfather’s house in North Carolina. The Feds say they discovered two spreadsheets accounting for “pickups (repairs)” in 2017 and 2018 totaling some $1.7 million, cash they are saying Claudia earned as a intercourse employee to “fulfill these faux money owed,” as one prosecutor put it throughout a listening to. As soon as, I requested Larry if Claudia had been giving him her earnings. Not solely did he say sure however he additionally advised me that, on no less than one event, he had spent the day watching shoppers come and go from Claudia’s residence to see if the numbers added up.
JAMES: I had checked out Claudia’s escort web page, and it seems to be costly. I’m questioning if …
LARRY: I couldn’t perceive what you mentioned, James.
JAMES: … I’m simply questioning, Claudia’s escort web page, her costs are costly; did she ever, like, pay you again with that?
LARRY: Wait, excuse me? Is it what?
JAMES: Was she ever in a position to pay you again with damages? Simply trigger it seems to be like she was making a shitload of cash.
LARRY: Yeah, no, she was. She paid. There’s occasions she would pay — she would wish to give us cash, sufficient that, you realize, I didn’t even consider she was making all of it from escorting. She may have been, nevertheless it was onerous to consider that. And to start with, she was saying that she, you realize, noticed this many purchasers or no matter and I truly went to her residence, the residence constructing she was residing in, and I sat down the corridor to look at for hours, and he or she didn’t have that many purchasers at the moment. She by no means knew I used to be there and I left and we simply all mentioned to one another, “Let’s see what occurs.” And he or she ended up calling in a while that night time and mentioned she had x quantity of shoppers, did rather well, she was all excited. You already know, type of excited anyway. That was clearly, I suppose she needed us to see her be excited, I suppose. There’s no method she had that many purchasers. No method. I used to be sitting proper there, I couldn’t miss them.
JAMES: She was excited, although, to have the ability to, like, pay you again?
LARRY: Yeah, she needed it to be acknowledged that she was paying us again. I genuinely at all times believed — and so did everyone else, you possibly can discuss to them your self — that Claudia genuinely felt very responsible. I genuinely believed that Yali [another alleged victim] did, felt genuinely responsible. And I genuinely believed that Santos [another alleged victim] felt genuinely responsible. However they didn’t find yourself doing the fitting factor, and the one one which needed to essentially try to do one thing, or did attempt — for no matter motive, no matter the true motive is you’d must know from Claudia — was Claudia.
What Larry was actually good at was insulating himself from the reality. For many years, Larry has created paper trails of doubtful journal entries, movies, audio recordings, and even public data that seemingly supported his conspiracy theories. (The FBI seized some 15 terabytes of knowledge from Larry, together with greater than 150,000 audio recordsdata.) A few of his victims testified underneath oath in a housing-court trial that they’d poisoned him. Adults have penned glowing letters about him. “I’m scripting this letter to unequivocally apologize for my malicious and spiteful habits and actions taken for the aim of injuring and destroying you,” wrote one girl underneath his spell. “You’re good, good-looking, humorous, efficient, an alpha male.” Larry has spent numerous time in courtrooms — within the pump-and-dump case, household court docket, housing court docket, as a witness in a prison case, and extra — and it’s as if he has lived his grownup years counterfeiting proof which may assist him in court docket in the future.
Within the run-up to the publication of our story in April 2019, Claudia lower ties with Larry and left New York. Throughout our conversations round that point, Larry appeared to be probing to determine if Ezra and I have been speaking to Claudia. A minimum of as soon as, Larry appeared to need me to ship a risk to Claudia. Larry mentioned that he was in command of a web site documenting Claudia’s “confessions.” To me, it appeared as if Larry used the web site — and the specter of posting extra content material geared toward humiliating her — as a method of management.
Larry: Claudia’s been concerned within the web site, in so far as placing issues up, and he or she felt it was a good suggestion from the beginning. However, you realize, we truly personal the web site.
JAMES: Okay, so, okay.
LARRY: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t suppose we talked about that.
JAMES: No, no, no. Okay.
LARRY: And I’m about to place some stuff up. Isabella has some concepts; she desires to place extra stuff up, and so does Felicia. And I don’t see any motive to not, as a result of that was the intention anyway.
JAMES: Okay, okay, so that you guys wish to put stuff as much as get it type of observed?
JAMES: Okay …
LARRY: You already know or no matter, nevertheless it actually, simply, it’s by no means, you realize, actually had the … you realize, formal plan to try this however began out and nonetheless is like no less than, you realize, put the stuff up there, and it’s what it’s. You already know, just like the stuff … handwritten stuff you see there … That’s Claudia’s handwriting.
LARRY: We additionally really feel that, you realize, what calms and grounds Claudia is placing one thing else up on the web site.
JAMES: You suppose that may floor her, you imply?
JAMES: I see, I see. Smoke alerts?
LARRY: Effectively, type of. You already know, it grounds her again to actuality. See what I’m saying? I’ve to say that Claudia is constant the entire time, you realize what I’m saying. She’s by no means walked away from and, you realize, she has mentioned this many occasions and it’s true. I can’t say she has … you realize, I don’t like, uh, agree with this … you realize, her not having advised us all the things but … however that’s not new … that’s at all times … you realize … type of been what she maintained.
My relationship with Larry got here to a screeching halt as quickly as Ezra and I began the fact-checking course of. After we known as Larry to provide him an opportunity to answer the allegations in our story, he refused to proceed whereas Ezra was on the telephone. (Larry was nonetheless satisfied Ezra was “biased,” or “influenced,” and a part of the Kerik conspiracy.) After we despatched Larry an e mail bullet-pointing every allegation, we acquired a cease-and-desist letter from his lawyer.
In February, Larry’s protection will seemingly be predicated on discrediting his victims. To take action, his attorneys could use data from their medical data and false confessions Larry extracted through the years. However apart from his co-defendant, Isabella Pollock, his victims could not be keen to associate with Larry’s conspiracy concept. Awaiting trial behind bars, Larry has not been allowed to contact them, giving them time and house to untangle their lives from him. At a listening to final yr, the constellation of Larry’s depravity was summed up not by a psychiatrist or a prosecutor however by Larry’s personal protection lawyer. “Your honor, on their very own these allegations are solely unlawful insofar as you join the dots,” she mentioned. For years, Larry was the one one who may join the dots. Now, they’re on full show for all to see.
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/10/larry-ray-sarah-lawrence-interviews.html | What It’s Prefer to Face Larry Ray, Monster of Sarah Lawrence