A former Big Island man accused of sexually abusing boys he fostered and adopted is shown fleeing a film crew in an online documentary published Monday.
The nearly 30-minute film by Vice News, an online news channel, shows interviews with men who claim abuse at the hands of Jay Ram while spending their youth on his farm north of Umauma in the late 1980s and ’90s. It also includes extensive footage on the Big Island and another communal farm in California where abuse is also alleged to have occurred.
The interviews, at times powerful and emotional, depict the man as a “hippie guru” who abused numerous boys placed in his care while creating a “Lord of the Flies” environment.
It finishes with the film crew waiting for him outside his home in Odessa, Fla. Jay Ram, who has three males with him, leads the crew on a car chase that ends when he calls the police to come to his aid.
The police take no action against the crew, and according to the film, also take their eyes off Jay Ram after conducting surveillance on his home.
Rajan Ram of Honolulu said it’s just another example of his adoptive father escaping justice.
“That’s no way to see anything,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the surveillance. “It all goes on behind closed doors.”
Rajan Ram, 40, is one of five men adopted or placed in foster care with Jay Ram in their youth who filed a civil lawsuit in Honolulu Circuit Court last year alleging sexual abuse.
The men are allowed to file the lawsuit because of a two-year window the state granted victims of abuse for cases outside the statute of limitations. The window doesn’t apply to criminal charges.
Rajan Ram, who was placed in Jay Ram’s care in the 1980s while he operated a commune-style farm called “Love Serve Surrender” in Corning, Calif., said he hopes the increased media attention on the case will lead to more alleged victims coming forward, possibly within the statute of limitations for criminal charges.
“What I want is for him to spend the rest of his life hopefully rotting in prison,” Rajan Ram said.
His message to other alleged victims: “Speak up and not be ashamed about it.”
“You can actually heal instead of carrying it with you,” he said.
The film also highlights how several abuse complaints against Jay Ram never resulted in prosecution. The men interviewed say they were afraid to verify the complaints to authorities while in his care.
For many, the 12-acre farm near Umauma was the closest thing to a real home they experienced.
“I just wanted a family,” Rajan Ram said. “I was bouncing from foster homes.
“I was always the new kid in school. It seemed like Jay was offering something stable.”
Two Big Island residents who knew Jay Ram, who now goes by the name Jay Mizraha, told the Tribune-Herald there was no sign of abuse on the outside, though they believe the claims made against him.
“The impression was that he was rescuing them from not having any parents,” said a former Umauma resident whose sons played with the adopted and fostered boys. She spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“This is a gentle man who eats vegetables, wears no shoes, no shirt, a pair of stretchy jogging shorts,” she said of her impression of him.
“He makes everything seem simple.”
Roy Skogstrom of Pepeekeo knew Jay Ram since the 1970s, and briefly operated a Big Island-based herbal import business with him.
He said he was unaware of the alleged abuse until a man formerly under Jay Ram’s care told him about it a few years ago.
“The whole thing seemed to be very well concealed,” Skogstrom said.
He said Jay Ram had as many as six boys in his care at any time.
“It was a little bit unusual, but what it seemed like to me was he was taking in a bunch of boys who had been in really crappy situations,” Skogstrom said.
“I was clearly fooled.”
Skogstrom said Jay Ram’s birth name was Gary Winnick. He previously went by the name Wandering Eagle.
According to Hawaii County property records, Jay Ram sold his properties in 2009 and 2011. He owned the farm for about 22 years.
From the Big Island, he moved to Saipan where he lived with three males, two of whom appear to be adults, in a beachfront home.
A local Realtor told the Tribune-Herald that Jay Ram sold the home for a significant loss in October. He was tracked to Odessa, Fla., where he was served with the lawsuit.
A Florida attorney representing Jay Ram didn’t respond to an email requesting comment by press time.
The state Department of Human Services was unable to respond immediately to an email requesting comment, said a spokeswoman.
Rajan Ram said a trial is scheduled for April 2015.
The men are being represented by attorney Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson and Associates and Honolulu attorney Mark Gallagher.
The film can be viewed at https://news.vice.com/video/love-serve-surrender.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.