NJ Landlord Arrested: Accused of Forcing Tenants to Perform Sex Acts
ELIZABETH — A landlord was arrested Friday on several charges for allegedly coercing more than a dozen of his tenants into sexual acts in exchange for financial relief.
Elizabeth landlord Joseph Centanni was charged with eight counts of second-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree attempted sexual assault and 14 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact from 2016 to 2020, NJ Advance Media reported.
Four alleged victims had previously told authorities that Centanni, 73, sexually assaulted them, according to police reports obtained last year by NJ Advance Media. One woman alleged that he assaulted her after she lost her job and was struggling to pay her rent amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a police report.
Centanni targeted male and female tenants who were about to be evicted or otherwise struggling financially, prosecutors said. He solicited sex from the alleged victims saying it was a “quid pro quo” and offering them rent reductions, a delay in an eviction or other forms of financial assistance, authorities said.
The Department of Justice sued Centanni in August under the Fair Housing Act, which protects tenants from sexual harassment and retaliation by landlords.
Centanni’s attorney, Raymond Londa, said he was unaware of the arrest when contacted Friday. He said his client would enter a not guilty plea.