(BREAKING WIDE) — Landlord Who Demanded Sexual Favors from Low-Income Tenants in Exchange for Housing Faces Lawsuit.
Federal authorities alleged in a lawsuit on Wednesday that Joseph Centanni, a New Jersey landlord who owns hundreds of rental units and receives about $100,000 a month in federal voucher payments demanded sexual favors from low-income tenants in exchange for housing.
Joseph Centanni has “subjected tenants and applicants to sexual harassment on multiple occasions” sometimes threatening to evict them if they refused since 2005, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement: “No one should ever be forced to provide sexual favors, or otherwise endure sexual harassment, as a condition to keep or obtain housing.”
The lawsuit accuses the landlord of “demanding that tenants provide him with sexual favors” in order to either obtain or keep their housing, “offering to grant tangible housing benefits … to tenants in exchange for sexual favors, including oral sex.” In 2019, a tenant who had agreed to move out approached Centanni because she was having trouble finding a new apartment.
“Centanni asked her words to the effect of ‘how bad do you want your apartment?’ and took her to an empty storage room,” the complaint said. Centanni then exposed himself to the tenant and asked for oral sex in exchange for her being allowed to stay in the building.
Feeling she had no choice, “the tenant submitted to Centanni’s sexual demand,” the complaint said. “After this incident, Centanni allowed her to stay in her apartment.”
Centanni is a beneficiary of federal funding, participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which subsidizes the rent of lower-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities, according to the complaint.
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