To date in the saga of convicted sex trafficker Larry Ray, federal prosecutors charged only one person as his co-conspirator and referred to her as his “lieutenant“: Isabella Pollok, his daughter’s best friend.
Seeking a judge’s mercy, Pollok’s lawyers told a federal judge that she has now broken free from Ray’s “cult” — and she now views her time spent under his thrall as the existence of a “broken automaton.”
“This prosecution reveals four phases of Isabella Pollok’s life: There is the damaged, lonely Sarah Lawrence College freshman,” her attorneys David B. Bertan and Jill R. Shellow wrote in a 10-page letter. “There is the awed protégé. There is the broken automaton. And now there is the Isabella who is before Your Honor prepared to be sentenced. If it were not for Lawrence Ray’s presence at Sarah Lawrence, Isabella would not be here. She does not deserve to go to jail.”
Under the terms of her plea agreement, Pollok faces a maximum five-year sentence following her guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy. She admitted that she helped Ray sexually traffic her one-time friend and roommate Claudia Drury and launder her millions of dollars in earnings.
“Escape All the Hardships of My Life”
In federal court, people awaiting sentencing commonly write emotional pleas to the presiding judge seeking leniency, but Pollok’s overture stands apart: She addressed two separate letters to the judge and prosecutors.
“When I started at Sarah Lawrence College in 2009, I saw it as opportunity to escape all the hardships in my life,” Pollok wrote to the three Assistant U.S. Attorneys who successfully prosecuted her.
How Pollok describes her childhood difficulties remains hidden under redactions, but her attorneys describe it as one of “abuse and neglect.”
“I felt I was sinking into the quicksand of what would have mirrored my parents and my brother, addicts with no direction,” her letter to the government continues.
She sounded a similar note to U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman, who will sentence her on Feb. 22.
“For the longest time I believed that at nineteen years old, I was an adult and therefore in complete control of my mindset,” Pollok told him. “I wish I had been able to view the world then as I do now. Attending Sarah Lawrence was my way of trying to run away from traumas that I experienced in my childhood.”
It was in that institution, some 15 miles north of midtown Manhattan, that Pollok had met Larry Ray as a college sophomore in the autumn of 2010. Daughter Talia Ray had introduced Pollok and her other roommates to him after his release from prison on unrelated child custody charges.
She told prosecutors that she came to see the Ray family as a lifeline.
“Talia was good to me, I trusted her and her trust in him was enough,” her letter states. “At that point in time, he did save my life. There is no question that I wanted to make my family suffer for the way they made me suffer and the only way I believed I could do it was to commit suicide back in Texas during Christmas break.”
Pollok’s account mirrors that of Ray’s victims like Drury, Daniel Levin, Santos Rosario, and his siblings Felicia and Yalitza Rosario. All had come to see Larry Ray as a man whose advice they trusted with personal difficulties and insecurities. Levin questioned his sexuality. Drury questioned her self-image. Santos Rosario and his siblings had a turbulent family life.
Larry Ray promised answers, peddling a credo of sexual liberation and the “quest for potential.” He also dazzled his young acolytes through his elaborate backstory boasting of connections to elite figures in politics, the U.S. military, and the intelligence community.
“He Had Made Her His Lover”
Some of Ray’s stories, like his supposedly crucial role in ending the Kosovo War, were tall tales and exaggerations; others, like his ties to ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, checked out.
“Ray’s manipulation of Isabella was different in kind from the other student-victims because among other things he had made her his lover,” Pollok’s lawyers wrote. “But she was no less a victim.”
Ray also made Felicia Rosario — whom he didn’t marry but called his “wife” — another lover, and routinely blurred sexual boundaries with his followers. In a purported effort to prove to Levin that he wasn’t gay, he made the young man put a giant dildo in his mouth, witnesses recounted. Santos Rosario testified that Ray ordered Drury to perform oral sex on him. They complied.
Pollok’s story was unique, in part, because of the role she played in Drury’s sexual exploitation. Drury testified that she made $2.5 million through four years of coerced sex work and gave all of her earnings to Ray. Pollok admitted that she laundered the loot, and a jury heard that she participated in what prosecutors called Drury’s “long night of torture.”
That night, at the Gregory Hotel in Manhattan in October 2018, Ray ordered Drury to strip naked, tied her to a chair, put a bag over her head, choked her with a leash, smothered her with a pillow, and poured water over her, according to her testimony.
With Ray that night, and taping the incident with an audio recording, was Pollok.
Drury testified that they ate burgers and fries from the nearby Starlight Diner, but left her hungry. A receipt corroborated Drury’s testimony, and it was initialed by Ray and Pollok.
In her letter to the judge, Pollok blamed Ray for driving her to that point.
“I trusted Lawrence more than I trusted myself and in doing so, I betrayed my own sense of right and wrong,” she wrote. “This trust became a sort of blind faith. Lawrence convinced me that Claudia, Santos, Yali, Felicia and Dan poisoned me and were constantly trying to hurt me, just as he convinced them that they were doing these things.”
Ray coerced his acolytes into falsely confessing these crimes, which he compulsively recorded in audio and video tapes, evidence showed.
“It wasn’t until witnessing this that I began to accept just how susceptible I was to being manipulated,” she wrote.
“I know I committed serious crimes and I fully accept responsibility for my actions. I am not the same person who met Lawrence Ray over 10 years ago. I know this request comes late. Lawrence’s hold over me changed who I was and it continues to be a healing process. With the help and love of others I have freed myself from the past. I am still a work in progress but know to the extent that I can make amends for the harm I have caused I am willing. I’m now asking for a second chance.”
Law&Crime chronicled Ray’s case in a six-part narrative podcast series, “Devil in the Dorm,” exclusively available ad-free on Wondery+.
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