Elizabeth, NJ landlord indicted: Sexual favors for financial relief
An Elizabeth landlord who has already been ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages stemming from sexual harassment accusations is now the recipient of a 42-count indictment related to the same alleged criminal activity.
City and Union County officials announced on Wednesday that 75-year-old Joseph Centanni, of Mountainside, is officially charged with 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in connection with alleged crimes that took place between 2013 and 2020.
According to authorities, Centanni solicited sex acts from struggling tenants and prospective renters in exchange for rent reductions, eviction delays, and other forms of assistance.
The victims were male and female, ranging in age from 22 to 61, the prosecutor's office said.
Centanni, who owns hundreds of rental units across 18 residential properties, was arrested in 2021.
Prior to Centanni's arrest, the Department of Justice sued him in August 2020 under the Fair Housing Act, which protects tenants from sexual harassment and retaliation by landlords.
In December 2021, Centanni was ordered to pay more than $4 million in damages and a civil penalty of more than $100,000 related to accusations from alleged victims who said they felt as if they had no choice but to meet Centanni's demands.
Centanni remains free, with pretrial monitoring, pending the outcome of his case, according to the prosecutor's office.