How Sex, Lies And The College Cult Subject Larry Ray Derailed A Political Career

Cults, like obscenity, are hard to define in words on a page (or pixels on a screen, as it were), but everybody knows them when they see them. Baltimore Sun writer Sam Fleischacker tried to parse out the difference and landed on the idea that, in so many words, religions stand the test of time, whereas cults come and go relatively quickly.

One cult that existed for a decade or so in the 2010s (per the Associated Press) was, as cults go, pretty small-scale. It only involved a few dozen people, at the most, as opposed to cults like NXIVM that can ensnare thousands. And the man at the center of it all was a convicted criminal who, for reasons perhaps best known to those who fell under his spell, managed to convince young college students to give him their money, do sexual favors for him, engage in sex work to earn money for him, and just about everything in between.

He appears to have gotten to his position by impressing the young adults with his story of bringing down a promising politician. That part was actually true: Cult figure Larry Ray, whose story is told in the upcoming Peacock documentary "Sex, Lies and the College Cult," genuinely did help derail the career of a man who might otherwise have wound up an influential figure in the George W. Bush administration.

The Sarah Lawrence College sex cult

Sarah Lawrence College is, according to its website, a "prestigious" liberal arts college in Yonkers, New York, "known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni."

In 2010, according to the Associated Press, Lawrence Ray moved into his daughter's dorm room, having been recently released from prison after doing time for securities fraud. Generally, adults who are a generation older than the students on a college campus work there, rather than live in the dorms and just kind of hang out. Nevertheless, it seems that at least some of the students there became enamored with the considerably older man who, by all rights, had no business being there. Specifically, according to NBC New York, he impressed them with his story of having brought down a politician named Bernard Kerik (more on that in a moment).

That admiration quickly devolved into a cult, in which Ray held considerable sway over the young people who had crossed his path. Specifically, he somehow convinced them that they owed him money for "poisoning" him, and the way to make things right was to pay him off. Some women even turned to sex work to earn money to pay him.

There is considerably more to the story, but Ray was convicted in August 2022 of charges including sex trafficking, extortion, and racketeering conspiracy, according to People.

What does Bernard Kerik have to do with this?

For a time in 2004, according to NBC New York, it looked as if Bernard Kerik was a shoo-in for Secretary of Homeland Security under then-President George W. Bush. The September 11, 2001, attacks had just occurred a few short years earlier, and Kerik had been the New York City Police Commissioner. If anyone was the right man for the job, it was him.

Until he wasn't. Abruptly, his nomination was withdrawn. And as it turns out, the reason why came back to Lawrence Ray. Specifically, Ray was facing indictment in a stock scam, and during the investigation, provided evidence that suggested that Kerik, who had been friends with Ray for years by that point, failed to report income that he'd received as gifts over the years in his work with the city. Not only did that end his aspirations in Washington, but he also went on to do time, to the tune of four years.

Though he had a minor role in derailing the career of a diplomat, it was apparently enough to convince his daughter's classmates that Ray had vast "influence," which he used to rope them into his cult.