True crime fans have been buzzing about Stolen Youth: Inside The Cult at Sarah Lawrence, a Hulu docuseries released on February 9 to the popular streaming platform. The twisted tale uncovers the origins of a full-fledged cult, which emerged in 2010 amidst the familiar backdrop of the tri-state area, as well as the healing process for those coerced by a terrifying leader.
The beginning of the three-episode mini-series kicks off back in 2009 in the ritzy neighborhood of Bronxville, New York. The wealthy enclave — located 15 miles from Manhattan — is known for exclusive country clubs, historic mansions (often in the English Tudor style) and elite academic institutions, primarily Sarah Lawrence College. The private liberal arts college is where Lawrence “Larry” Ray, a convicted con man fresh from prison, first preyed upon victims after moving into his daughter Talia’s dorm.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Zach Heinzerling proceeds to take viewers down a rabbit hole, exposing Ray’s shocking behavior which led innocent students along a harrowing path of abuse, forced labor and serious sexual and financial exploitation. Ray employed a variety of manipulation techniques under the guise of “self-help,” famously documented in a New York Magazine article originally published in 2019, to persuade his daughter’s classmates to give up their lives in service of his deranged interests.
Once school was out for summer, Ray convinced the crew to move in with him to an East 93rd Street rental. The one-bedroom apartment – located at The Waterford Condominium at 300 East 93rd Street, per a September 2021 New York Post report – became the epicenter of the cult, where he utilized Marine-style techniques to create an intense atmosphere similar to a military boot camp.
The 93rd Street pad was owned by Lee Chen, who confessed to the Post to have also been somewhat seduced by Ray’s sociopathic ways. Chen also notes he observed forced sex acts between students while stopping by, and thus convinced Ray to move out in 2016. By then, Ray was responsible for a slew of heinous crimes — including forced prostitution. Last month, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison after being convicted on all counts (sex trafficking, extortion and racketeering are just a few on the laundry list of charges).
The fact that Ray was able to keep up this cult-like environment for years on end just proves a well-known New York adage: you really never know your neighbors.
Stolen Youth: Inside The Cult at Sarah Lawrence is available to watch now on Hulu.