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Bakersfield landlord to pay $2M in sex lawsuit

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POSTED September 11, 2012 9:07 p.m.

BAKERSFIELD  (AP) — A landlord has agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging he traded housing benefits for sex and retaliated against women who refused his advances, federal officials said Tuesday.

The settlement is the largest ever for a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the federal government under the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The government alleged Rawland Leon Sorensen, of Bakersfield, harassed women over the past decade, made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to current and prospective tenants, exposed his genitals, groped female tenants, and entered their residences without permission or notice.

Sorensen, 80, also allegedly granted or offered to grant housing benefits — such as reducing the rent, overlooking or excusing late or unpaid rent, purchasing new appliances, and forestalling or terminating eviction proceedings — in exchange for sexual favors. He evicted some women who refused the advances, authorities said.

Sorensen has operated his rental business for more than 30 years; he has about 55 properties, mostly single family homes. The settlement amount includes damages for 25 alleged victims. It includes court costs and attorneys' fees for two victims who are private plaintiffs.

Sorensen must also pay a $55,000 civil penalty and has to hire an independent manager to manage his rental properties. The settlement imposes strict limits on his ability to have contact with current and future tenants.

Sorenson told The Associated Press he denies all the allegations. He said that Justice Department lawyers were "the biggest crooks in the world" and witnesses in the case were drug addicts paid for their testimony.

Sorenson said he settled the case because he didn't want to risk losing in court. He said he evicted people because they didn't pay the rent.


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