It started out innocuously enough: In September 2010, Larry Ray came to stay with his daughter at Sarah Lawrence College. Sophomore Talia Ray lived with seven housemates in a campus dorm called the Slonim Woods 9, and the 50-year-old became the de facto house dad. Then he began "counseling" some of the roommates through their issues, and from there, the story takes a sharp turn into a land of conspiracies, psychological manipulation, and bizarre behavior. In a lengthy piece for the Cut, Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh pose the key question at the outset: "What happened to the group of bright college students who fell under the sway of a classmate's father?" Here's how it progressed: When summer came, a number of them moved with Larry to a one-bedroom condo on East 93rd Street in Manhattan owned by a friend of Larry's.
Larry always had a backpack with him with a "wad of cash" inside; he had a limo ferry the kids around and would foot the bill for pricey meals and clothes. He pounded amphetamines and barely slept. He had unusual connections, chief among them Bernie Kerik (things went really south between the men). He started instructing some of the students to have sex with each other; he would watch or participate. He took the locks off the bathroom doors. He demanded they pay him tens of thousands for items they had supposedly damaged. No one questioned any of it. One student told his parents he'd kill himself if they didn't give him the $47,726.79 Larry said he owed him. Those parents estimate they forked over upwards of $200,000 over three years. The police said nothing could be done as their son was over 18; they haven't heard from him since 2013. Two girls swallowed a bottle's worth of Tylenol and were hospitalized. One bizarrely claimed she attempted suicide because she felt guilty about trying to poison Larry, claiming her parents had told her they'd pay her $1 million to go after him. Read the story in full here. (Read more Longform stories.)