Man investigated for sex trafficking forced young women to work on Pinehurst property, NY lawsuit says

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PINEHURST, N.C. (WNCN) – A man is accused of forcing young women into labor at his family’s property in Pinehurst in 2013, according to a New York lawsuit.

Lawrence Ray was arrested Tuesday charged with sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor, among other federal charges.

Law enforcement officers said the case began in 2010 at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

According to the FBI, Ray got out of prison for previous charges and moved into an on-campus dorm with his daughter and her friends — all of whom were college students.

The indictment said Ray took on a father-figure role with the students at first, gaining their trust in part by hosting so-called “therapy sessions”.

“Ray directed his victims to obtain money for him by other means, by draining their parents’ savings, and worse, forces labor and prostitution,” said Geoffrey Berman, U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The indictment said the forced labor happened at Ray’s family member’s property in Pinehurst for several months in 2013.

During this time, it alleged the victims were deprived of food and sleep, and forced to work in the middle of the night and sleep outside.

It also said Ray was physically violent with the victims and accused them of intentionally damaging the property.

He told them if they did bad work, his family member would have a heart attack and die, the indictment said.

A Google image for the property on Scarborough Place happened to catch a few unidentified people working outside. One person was wearing what appears to be Sarah Lawrence sweatpants.

No one answered at the home on Wednesday.

Property records show the same person has owned it since at least 1988.

The indictment said Ray used verbal and physical abuse to control his victims. He also demanded taped confessions from them for crimes he accused them of doing.

“For nearly a decade, exploited and abused young women and men emotionally, physically and sexually for his own financial gain,” Berman said.

The federal investigation started after New York Magazine published an article about Ray last year.

“These students were curious, open to the world, looking for somebody interesting to latch on to and could share wisdom about the world, and Larry was that person,” said James D. Walsh with New York Magazine.

Sarah Lawrence College officials said they looked into allegations from 2011, but couldn’t substantiate them. They said the latest charges are serious and disturbing, and that student safety is a top priority.

“The conduct alleged here is outrageous, makes you angry,” said FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney. “If you’re not angry, you don’t have a soul.”

Ray could face life in prison if he’s convicted.

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