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DOJ reaches ‘historic’ settlement against a landlord accused of sexually harassing tenants



The settlement, still subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, is the largest monetary settlement the Justice Department has ever obtained in a residential sexual harassment case, the announcement said.

“This historic lawsuit and settlement sends a clear message that the Department will not stand idly by when landlords abuse their power to prey on vulnerable tenants,” said Assistant Attorney General. Kristen Clarke, head of the Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

Joseph Centanni, who owns hundreds of rental apartments in and around Elizabeth, is accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by forcing tenants and applicants to sexually harass them on multiple occasions over 15 years. announcement. The Act prohibits discrimination in housing, including on the basis of sex.

He allegedly asked applicants and tenants, to touch them in a “sexual and unwelcome” manner, to make sexual comments and advances and to offer benefits such as reduced rent in exchange for sexual favors, the statement said.

Centanni would “take applicants and tenants to his accommodations such as empty apartments, empty laundry rooms or storage rooms where he would request massages, expose himself, request sex. giving him oral sex and forcing people to touch him sexually,” Clarke told reporters. “If they obey his demands, he allows them to move in or keep their housing. If people don’t obey, Centanni will refuse to rent them out or evict them.”

Raymond Londa, Centanni’s attorney, told CNN, “Mr Centanni resolved the matter to avoid lengthy litigation.”

“As the language of the consent decree indicates, in a number of different places it states that he did not in any way admit or acknowledge wrongdoing or liability” , Londa said. “He continues to deny the allegations against him in this case and in any other.”

The ministry opened an investigation into Centanni in 2019 and File a lawsuit in August 2020. Centanni participates in the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Part 8, and receives about $102,000 monthly in voucher payments, prosecutors said.

He agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement plus a civil penalty to the government. Part of the settlement includes a proposed consent decree that would require the formation of a victim compensation fund of nearly $4.4 million — the largest ever established by the Justice Department in a harassment case. sex under the Fair Housing Act – to compensate those who have been harassed by Centanni and to provide more time for the Justice Department to continue investigating to find more victims.

The consent decree says Centanni will have 30 days after the decree goes into effect to deposit that amount.

“No one needs to submit to a sexual need to have a place to live,” says Clarke. The landmark settlement is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to combat sexual harassment in homes, Clarke added.

Since October 2017, the department has filed 23 lawsuits alleging domestic sexual harassment.

“And with today’s arrangement [the Justice Department] Clarke said.

“We will not commit to ending sexual harassment, fighting gender-based discrimination, and protecting the rights of those in our LGBTQ+ community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig New Jersey County said. “Gender-based discrimination includes harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and we encourage anyone who is experiencing discrimination or harassment to contact our office.” anytime.”

Centanni also has a Pending crime moneye filed by the Union County prosecutor’s office, in which he faces 10 years in prison for the charge of willful second-degree sexual assault. Londa also represents Centanni in the pending case, but declined to comment on that.

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