NJ officials say landlord refused to rent to Muslims — confrontation on video
Video provided by state Attorney General's Office
ELIZABETH — A city landlord is being sued by the state after he was caught on camera in a confrontation with a woman who claimed he refused to rent to her because she was a Muslim.
William Greda, owner of the Maple Garden apartments, is facing a five-count civil rights complaint filed Wednesday in Superior Court.
The lawsuit follows an investigation by the state Division on Civil Rights, which said Greda refused to rent an apartment to an undercover investigator who wore a headscarf over her head.
The state launched its investigation after Fatma Farghaly tried to rent an apartment last winter, only to be told by Greda that he did not rent to Muslims, she said.
Greda captured part of their exchange on her cellphone camera. She shared the footage with News 12 New Jersey. State officials on Wednesday provided a copy of the video to New Jersey 101.5.
Greda told News 12 New Jersey that the investigation was “extortion” and that the state Attorney General’s Office was part of a Muslim conspiracy to extort money from business owners. He also called Muslims “extremists” and “ISIS.”
To state investigators, he claimed Farghaly said she wanted to move into the single-bedroom apartment with three adults and two children and that Farghaly’s male companion assaulted and threatened him when he tried to tell them they couldn’t fit that many people into the apartment.
The state, however, noted that Farghaly is single with no children and planned to live alone. The state also found no evidence that Greda was assaulted or threatened.
The state said Greda wouldn't rent to an undercover female investigator who wore a headscarf because he said the basement apartment would flood and she would have trouble moving her belonging to higher ground. But when two more undercover women with no Islamic garb inquired about the same apartment, Greda didn't say anything about flooding.
The Maple Garden building on Garden Street contains 17 units.
State law makes it illegal to refuse to rent, show or sell property based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex, or mental and physical disability, including AIDS and HIV-related illness.
The law makes exceptions for landlords who live in a two-family unit or for a homeowner who wants to rent out rooms in their home.
The state's lawsuit says Greda unlawfully transferred ownership of his building to a limited liability corporation for a single dollar in April when he knew he was under investigation.
The state is seeking to recover damages on behalf of Fatma Farghaly for mental and emotional distress and for punitive damages.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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