What to Know
- The owner of hundreds of rental units scattered across 18 residential properties in Elizabeth is accused of sex crimes involving seven more tenants, bringing the total number of alleged victims to 20
- Joseph Centanni is accused of engaging in the sex crimes at various points from 2013 to 2020; the women ranged in age from 22 to 61
- Centanni allegedly described the sex acts he solicited from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange
The owner of hundreds of rental units scattered across 18 residential properties in Elizabeth, New Jersey, who was arrested earlier this year and criminally charged with coercing more than a dozen tenants into sexual acts in exchange for financial relief has been rearrested, Union County law officials announced Thursday.
Joseph Centanni, 74, of Mountainside, has been charged with sexual crimes against seven more tenants, bringing the total number of victims to 20, prosecutors said. He faces nearly three dozen criminal counts, including criminal sexual contact and sexual assault. Centanni is accused of engaging in the alleged sex crimes at various points from 2013 to 2020; the women ranged in age from 22 to 61.
A long-term investigation initiated by a referral from Elizabeth police and led by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit revealed that Centanni allegedly targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, about to be evicted, or otherwise struggling financially, according to the lead prosecutor in the case.
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Each of the victims reported feeling as though they had no choice but to concede to Centanni’s demands, citing dire personal circumstances such as trying to maintain housing for their young children, officials said
Centanni allegedly described the sex acts he solicited from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange. He also allegedly threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures.
The 74-year-old was taken into custody Wednesday and will be held in Essex County Jail pending a first appearance scheduled in Union County Superior Court.
He had been free on pretrial release with conditions following his initial arrest in March. At that time, his attorney, Raymond Londa, said his client would plead not guilty to the charges.
Any other people who believe they may have been victimized by Centanni are asked to contact the Union County Prosecutor's Office at 908-477-1692.
Centanni is also the subject of another separate and ongoing Fair Housing Act lawsuit brought on by the United States Department of Justice for allegedly subjecting tenants to sexual harassment, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Authorities remind the public they can report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Hotline at 855-281-3339, or by emailing the Justice Department at email@example.com.