By: Yuritza Arroyo
Union County authorities announced today that the owner of hundreds of rental units scattered across 18 residential properties in Elizabeth, who was arrested in June of 2021, was indicted last Thursday for committing sexual offenses against 30 tenants over a number of years.
According to Union County officials, the 42-count indictment charges Joseph Centanni, 75, of Mountainside, with 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.
The alleged crimes took place at various times from 2013 to 2020, with male and female victims ranging in age from 22 to 61.
According to Elizabeth Police, a long-term investigation led by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit revealed that Centanni targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, about to be evicted or otherwise struggling financially.
Police say Centanni allegedly solicited the sexual acts from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in an eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange.
He allegedly also threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures.
Centanni remains free on court-ordered pretrial monitoring pending the outcome of his case.