LOS ANGELES (AP) — Women who lived in two apartment buildings in Los Angeles faced years of sexual harassment and retaliation by a property manager, violating the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a lawsuit Monday.
The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that since at least 2006, Filomeno Hernandez engaged in unwanted sexual touching, made unwelcome sexual advances and comments, and offered to reduce rent or excuse late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex. Hernandez also is accused of entering women's apartments without their consent.
The lawsuit also names Ramin Akhavan and two companies — Bonnie Brae Investment Services LLC and Westlake Property Services LLC.
A call to a telephone number for Hernandez was answered by someone who immediately hung up. Online state business records show Akhavan and the companies listed at one address in the Century City area. A telephone number for the address could not be located.
The apartment buildings are west of downtown near MacArthur Park in the Westlake district, an aging and densely populated part of the city that was developed in the 1920s.
According to the lawsuit, Akhavan bought both properties in the 1990s and transferred ownership to the companies he created.
One apartment building has 82 units and an annex with four units. The other building has 97 units. Some of the units in both buildings do not have bathrooms, so residents must use communal bathrooms on each floor, the lawsuit said.
It seeks monetary compensation for the women, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
“The sexual harassment of vulnerable women is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate this behavior by any landlord or property manager,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. “Those who abuse their positions of power will be held accountable under the Fair Housing Act.”
The Justice Department said it has sued 13 times since a nationwide initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing was announced in 2017.