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Landlord Told to Pay $66,000 to 10 Women

December 10, 2004|From Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — A landlord was ordered to pay more than $66,000 in damages Thursday to 10 women who accused him of violating federal fair housing laws by demanding sex in lieu of rent.

The award against John Koch was far less than the $1.9 million the U.S. Justice Department had sought.

Federal officials filed a civil suit against Koch after about 20 women -- many of them low-income and desperate to find housing -- accused him of demanding sexual favors as far back as 1996 in lieu of such things as rent, late rent charges and security deposits.

Koch, who owns 43 rental houses in Omaha, also was accused of inappropriately touching female tenants, entering their homes without notice and stealing items if they rejected his advances.

Some women were wrongfully evicted or threatened, according to the lawsuit.

The case was brought after one prospective tenant secretly taped Koch demanding sex once a week to rent a house from him, prosecutors said.

Koch testified that some of the women initiated the sex, and he evicted tenants only when they were behind on rent. He said he refused to rent to some women because they did not have enough money for a security deposit.

Koch did not immediately return a call to his home Thursday.

His lawyer, Matthew McBride, said during the trial that although Koch's behavior was "immoral" and "not proper," he had not broken federal law.

Justice Department lawyers did not return calls seeking comment.

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