Elderly landlord demanded sexual favors from 35 male and female tenants: prosecution in New Jersey after million-dollar lawsuit

Joseph Centanni, a 75-year-old former landlord, has been indicted on more than three dozen counts on suspicion of demanding sexual favors from 30 low-income tenants in exchange for help paying rent in New Jersey, prosecutors said.

Centanni, a Mountainside (NJ) resident, was charged last week with 42 charges including 23 for sexual assault and 19 for criminal sexual contact, the Union County District Attorney’s Office reported.

The accused owned 18 low-income residential rental properties in the city Elizabeth, each of which had between four and 100 units. allegedly bribed men and women ages 22 to 61 to engage in unwanted sexual favors between 2013 and 2020.

“He allegedly solicited the sexual acts of his victims as a something for something, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delayed eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in return,” said the statement, quoted by New York Post. “He also allegedly threatened tenants who doubted or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures.”

Centanni was arrested in June 2021, but remains in release under pretrial supervision ordered by the court.

a year ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Centanni agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a Fair Housing Act lawsuit that protects tenants from harassment and discrimination.

It was the largest settlement DOJ has ever obtained in a case alleging sexual harassment in the dwelling and settled a federal lawsuit that said Centanni had caused “severe or pervasive sexual harassment” to its tenants for a period of 15 years.

Plus Centanni he sold all of his buildings as part of the deal and was permanently barred from owning or managing residential property. He did not admit to any wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit.

allegedly demanded oral sex or touched the tenants inappropriately and without their consent in exchange for helping them apply for rental assistance to stay in their homes.

The $4.5 million he agreed to pay will be distributed to his victims through a compensation fund, according to the DOJ. It has also settled at least seven lawsuits filed by former tenants in state courts, according to NJ.com.

Anyone who has been a victim of residential discrimination can file a complaint. New York City Human Rights Law requires that the complaint be filed no later than one year from the date of the last alleged act of discrimination. More information here.

All charges are mere accusations and those charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.

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