New Jersey landlord Joseph Centanni has been charged with sexual assault after he allegedly solicited sex from tenants who were struggling financially, NBC News reports.
The 75-year-old landlord has been accused by at least 30 male and female tenants of soliciting sex in exchange for rent breaks or avoiding eviction. He has been charged in a 42-count indictment, which includes 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, and 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault. He owned hundreds of rental units across 18 different properties, and reportedly threatened tenants who refused his advances.
According to a statement from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Centanni was arrested in June 2021 and was indicted on Thursday for committing sexual offenses against his tenants over a period of years. "The alleged crimes took place at various times from 2013 to 2020, with male and female victims ranging in age from 22 to 61," the statement reads. "A long-term investigation initiated by a referral from the Elizabeth Police Department and led by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit, revealed that Centanni targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, about to be evicted, or otherwise struggling financially."
Despite the indictment, Centanni currently remains free on court-ordered pretrial monitoring." 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," reads the statement. "He also purportedly threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures."
In December last year, Centanni agreed to pay $4.5 million in settlements to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit, the Justice Department announced.