NJ landlord who forced tenants into sex acts faces charges against 7 more residents

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ELIZABETH, N.J. — A New Jersey landlord who was charged for demanding sexual favors from tenants earlier this year has been rearrested on similar charges against more victims, bringing the total victim count to at least 20, authorities announced Thursday.

Joseph Centanni, 74, was charged with five additional accounts of second-degree sexual assault and seven additional counts of fourth-degree cirminal sexual contact, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said. 

Centanni is the owner of hundreds of rental units in and around the town of Elizabeth, authorities said.

The landlord has a total of 35 criminal charges against him for incidents that took place between 2013 and 2020, with at least 20 male and female victims ranging in age from 22 to 61, according to officials.

Investigation revealed Centanni had targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, facing eviction or financially struggling. 

The victims reported they felt as though they had no other choice but to accept Centanni’s demands, citing the need to maintain housing for their young children, according to officials.

He allegedly described the sex acts as a quid pro quo and agreed to offer them rent reductions, eviction delays or other forms of financial help.

Those who hesitated were threatened, authorities said.

In 2020, the Department of Justice filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Centanni for “violating the Fair Housing Act by subjecting tenants to sexual harassment” since at least 2005.

Any additional victims of Centanni who have yet to come forward and anyone with information about Centanni’s activities are urged to contact Detective Son of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office at 908-477-1698.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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