BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit today alleging that female tenants of residential rental properties in Worcester were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
“No one should ever have to choose between housing and sexual harassment,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Sexual harassment is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and my office is committed to achieving justice and compensation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated. I encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment by his or her landlord or employee of a landlord to report it to my office.”
“Landlords or their employees who sexually harass tenants will be held accountable under the law by the Department of Justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Such depraved conduct, targeting some of the most vulnerable in our communities, violates the Fair Housing Act and will not be tolerated. The Civil Rights Division will continue to enforce the law vigorously and work to secure justice for victims of these offenses.”
“Subjecting a person to sexual harassment not only violates the law, it robs that individual of the ability to feel safe and secure in the place they call home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue working in partnership with the Justice Department to address this form of discrimination.”
The lawsuit alleges that from at least 2009 through the present, Mohan Prashad and David Besaw sexually harassed female tenants of rental properties owned by Prashad, Savton LLC, and Lanaton LLC. Prashad is the sole agent for Savton LLC and Lanaton LLC. Besaw, a Level 3 registered sex offender in Massachusetts, has been employed by Prashad since at least 2014 to assist with the management and maintenance of his rental properties.
The complaint alleges that Prashad engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; engaging in unwanted sexual touching; offering to grant tangible benefits—such as reducing rent amounts—in exchange for engaging in sexual acts with him; refusing to provide needed maintenance services or taking other adverse housing actions against female tenants who resisted or objected to his unwelcome sexual harassment; intimidating female tenants by monitoring them from outside their apartments or rooms; and, after receiving notice of Besaw’s sexual harassment of female tenants, failing to take any action to prevent Besaw from future sexual harassment. The complaint further alleges that Besaw subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual contact including groping, sexual assault, and forced touching of their bodies, without consent; exposing his genitals to female tenants; making unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances toward female tenants; and making intrusive, unannounced visits to female tenants’ units to conduct and further his sexual advances.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
In October 2017, the Justice Department launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Department announced the nationwide rollout of the initiative, including three major components: a new joint Task Force with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat sexual harassment in housing, an outreach toolkit to leverage the Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and a public awareness campaign, including the launch of a national Public Service Announcement.
Individuals who have information about this case can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Unit by calling 617-748-3100 and asking for the Civil Rights Intake Specialist, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Victims of sexual harassment related to housing nationwide can also contact the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative by calling 1-844-380-6178, or through email at email@example.com.
U.S. Attorney Lelling, AAG Dreiband and HUD Assistant Secretary Farías made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Torey B. Cummings and Michelle Leung, of Lelling’s Civil Rights Unit, and Trial Attorney Kinara Flagg of DOJ's Civil Rights Division are handling the matter.
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.