BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the operator of several sober homes in Massachusetts alleging he subjected female tenants to sexual harassment by, among other things, seeking sexual favors in exchange for rent forgiveness or extra privileges.
Through his actions, Peter McCarthy, 49, owner of Steps to Solutions, Inc., violated the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
“It is disappointing that a landlord who is supposed to be helping vulnerable women beat drug addiction was allegedly sexually harassing them and offering to reduce their rent in exchange for sex,” acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said in a statement.
McCarthy’s attorney when reached by phone said his client, who is in recovery himself, denies the allegations.
“He is proud of the work he has done, he has helped a lot of people, and will respond to the complaint in court,” Brian Kelley said.
McCarthy, from 2012 through 2019, sexually harassed female residents by offering to reduce or forgive rent, granting extra house privileges, or waiving security deposits in exchange for engaging in sexual acts, prosecutors said.
He also requested sexually explicit photographs, offering to reduce or waive rent in exchange, made unwanted sexual comments, and retaliated against tenants who reported his conduct, prosecutors alleged.
The suit seeks a court order to prevent future discriminatory conduct, financial compensation for the alleged victims and penalties.
“At a time when our country is experiencing record numbers of deaths related to drug overdoses, it is particularly disturbing to see sexually harassing conduct targeted at individuals who are in recovery,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said.
Steps to Solutions operates seven sober houses in Boston and Lynn, that according to the company website, offer in-house counseling, Narcan training, and onsite nurse practitioners.