The US Attorney’s Office and Justice Dept have filed a lawsuit on Thursday in the District of CT alleging that female tenants and applicants of residential rental properties in and around New London 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.
Mr. 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.
Mr. Bruno also allegedly entered the homes of female tenants without their consent, asked to take and taking pictures and videos of the bodies of his tenants and their female children, and established, maintained and forced 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.
Mr. Bruno, a former resident of Waterford, has been incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute at Otisville since 2017.
Mr. Bruno pleaded guilty and, on September 28, 2017, was sentenced in New Haven federal court to 16 years in prison for producing child pornography in one of the properties owned by Domco II, with one of the minors who resided in one of properties owned by Domco.
“This federal lawsuit represents a significant step toward achieving justice and compensation for vulnerable victims of civil rights violations,” said US Attorney John Durham.
Durham said 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,” Durham added.
“Female tenants should never be subjected to sexual harassment in a place that should be free from coercion and intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Dreiband.
Dreiband said 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.
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 US Attorney’s Offices
- a public awareness campaign, including the launch of a national public service annoucnement
The US Attorney’s Office urges individuals who believe that they have been victimized by sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings previously owned or operated by Richard Bruno, Domco or Domco II, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, to contact Investigator John Sereno at 203-696-3036, or [email protected].
Victims of sexual harassment related to housing can also contact the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative by calling 1-844-380-6178, or through email at [email protected].
Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by e-mailing the U.S. Attorney’s Office at [email protected].
More information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt.