The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have filed a lawsuit in the District of Connecticut alleging that female tenants and applicants of residential rental properties in and around New London, Connecticut, were subjected to sexual harassment, coercion, intimidation and threats, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit alleges that from at least 2011 through 2016, Richard Bruno sexually harassed female tenants and applicants of rental properties owned or co-owned by Bruno, Domco LLC, and Domco II LLC. Bruno was an agent and property manager for Domco, which was owned by Bruno’s ex-wife. Domco II was owned by Bruno and his ex-wife. According to the complaint, Bruno engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; engaging in unwanted sexual touching; demanding or pressuring female applicants to engage in sexual acts to obtain rental privileges; evicting or threatening to evict female tenants who objected to or refused sexual advances; entering the homes of female tenants without their consent; asking to take and taking pictures and videos of the bodies of his tenants and their female children; and establishing, maintaining and forcing his tenants and their minor female children to view “dungeons” or “sex rooms” in the rental properties.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
Bruno, a former resident of Waterford, Connecticut, has been incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute at Otisville since 2017. On May 8, 2017, Bruno pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Sept. 28, 2017, to 16 years in federal prison in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut for producing child pornography in one of the properties owned by defendant Domco II, with one of the minors who resided in one of properties owned by defendant Domco.
“Female tenants should never be subjected to sexual harassment in a place that should be free from coercion and intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act and taking action against landlords and property managers who prey on women and cause them to feel unsafe in their own homes.”
“This federal lawsuit represents a significant step toward achieving justice and compensation for vulnerable victims of civil rights violations,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Everyone has the right to be free from unwanted sexual harassment and intimidation by a landlord or property manager, loan officer or housing official, maintenance worker or security guard. Individuals who are being victimized as a condition of their housing have rights, and all are encouraged to report this type of reprehensible behavior to the Justice Department.”