A New Jersey landlord has been charged with more than three dozen sex crimes after he solicited sex from 30 low-income tenants in exchange for housing assistance, prosecutors said.
Joseph Centanni, 75, of Mountainside, was indicted last week on 42 counts, including 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sex, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.
Centanni owned 18 low-income housing units in Elizabeth City – each building ranging from four to 100 units.
From 2013 to 2020, the creepy landlord bribed men and women between the ages of 22 and 61 to engage in inappropriate sex.
“The defendant allegedly solicited sex from his victims as a quid pro quo and agreed to offer rent reductions, eviction delays or other financial assistance in return,” the affidavit said.
“He also threatened tenants who hesitated or rejected his advances with eviction or other retaliation.”
Centanni was arrested in June 2021, but remains in custody pending a court-ordered trial.
A year ago, the Justice Department announced it had agreed to pay Centan $4.5 million to settle a fair housing lawsuit to protect tenants from harassment and discrimination.
Centanni sold all of his properties as part of the settlement and is permanently barred from owning or managing the residential property. He admitted no wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit.
The settlement was the largest monetary settlement the DOJ has reached to settle a federal lawsuit alleging domestic sexual assault and Centanni sexually assaulting her tenants over a 15-year period.
Centanni subjected residents and prospective tenants to “severe or widespread sexual harassment.” claim Presented by the Ministry of Justice in 2020.
He demanded oral sex from tenants or touched them inappropriately and without their consent in exchange for helping them apply for rental assistance so they could stay in their homes.
Centanni and his estates also benefited greatly from federal Section 8 housing vouchers, which brought him more than $100,000 in monthly housing choice voucher payments.
According to the DOJ, the $4.5 million he agreed to pay will be distributed to his victims through a compensation fund.
In addition, he has settled at least seven lawsuits filed by previous tenants in state courts NJ.com.