By CBSNewYork Team

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A landlord with hundreds of rental units in 18 properties in Elizabeth is accused of coercing more than a dozen of his tenants into sexual acts.

(credit: Union County Prosecutor’s Office)

According to Acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo, Joseph Centanni faces sexual assault and criminal sexual contact charges for several incidents which allegedly took place from 2016-2020.

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Authorities say Centanni, 73, targeted tenants who were homeless, facing eviction or otherwise struggling financially. He would demand sexual acts in exchange for rent reductions, delaying evictions or other financial relief. Prosecutors say tenants who refused or hesitated were threatened with eviction or other forms of retaliation.

Prosecutors say the sex acts took place in the laundry, storage, or boiler rooms at his properties, or in a sample apartment that was to be shown to possible renters.

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Centanni was arrested Friday.

Federal investigators are also looking into Centanni.

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Anyone with information is asked to call either Union County prosectors at (908) 477-1698 or federal investigators at (855) 281-3339, or by emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

CBSNewYork Team