The U.S. Department of Justice has sued a Koreatown apartment owner, alleging one of its property managers sexually harassed tenants for nearly a decade, including by offering "housing-related benefits in exchange for sexual acts."
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is part of a larger effort by the Justice Department to crack down on sexual harassment by landlords and others who have control over people's housing.
In the Koreatown case, the lawsuit was filed against apartment owner M&F Development LLC and property manager Abraham Kesary.
According to authorities, between at least 2012 and 2020, Kesary engaged in a variety of unwelcome sexual acts, including groping, kissing and attempting to penetrate female tenants at an apartment building on Western Avenue.
Kesary also offered to waive or reduce rent and late fees if tenants performed sexual acts, the complaint alleges.
“A home is a place of refuge; not a place to be subjected to degrading and unlawful harassment," Assistant Atty. Gen. Kristen Clarke said in a statement.
The owners of M&F Development could not be reached for comment. A man who picked up a phone number listed for an Abraham Kesary said that he was Kesary and that he still manages the complex. He denied sexually harassing tenants.
He said he did "nothing, whatsoever" like the allegations contained in the lawsuit and called them ridiculous.
"I am 85 years old," the person said. "Seven years ago I am no longer active sexually."
In its lawsuit, the federal government is asking for monetary damages for the accusers and civil penalties against Kesary and M&F Development.
Since 2017, the Justice Department has filed 31 lawsuits and recovered $10.7 million for victims as part of its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.