ELIZABETH, N.J. – A landlord in New Jersey is facing more than three dozen sex related charges for demanding sexual favors from 30 low-income tenants in exchange for housing assistance, according to prosecutors.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday slapped Mountainside resident Joseph Centanni with a 42-count indictment. The litany of charges include 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, the prosecutor’s Office said, according to the New York Post.
Centanni, 75, owned 18 low-income residential rental properties in the city of Elizabeth. They ranged from four to 100 units. He is accused of bribing women as well as men ages 22 to 61 to engage in unwanted sexual favors. The crimes charged took place from 2013 to 2020.
“The defendant allegedly solicited the sex acts from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in an eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
“He also purportedly threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures.”
The creepy landlord was arrested in June 2021 but is currently out of custody on court-ordered pretrial monitoring.
Last year, Centanni agreed to pay $4.5 million to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit that sought to protect tenants from harassment and discrimination, according to the Justice Department, the New York Post reported in December 2021.
Hence, Centanni sold all of his properties as part of the settlement. Moreover, he has been permanently banned from owning or managing residential properties, although he did not acknowledge wrongdoing when the suit was settled.
According to the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2020, Centanni subjected residents and prospective tenants to “severe or pervasive sexual harassment.”
The Post reported that Centanni allegedly touched tenants inappropriately and without their consent or required oral sex in exchange for rental assistance and remaining in their homes.
Centanni’s properties qualified for federal Section 8 housing vouchers, which netted him more than $100,000 in Housing Choice Voucher payments every month.
The $4.5 million he has agreed to pay is the largest monetary settlement the DOJ has ever obtained in a case involving sexual harassment in housing. The monies will be distributed to his victims through a compensation fund, according to DOJ.
Centanni has also settled at least seven civil actions filed by previous tenants at the state level, according to NJ.com.