The federal government today accused a Dorchester man who runs a series of "sober homes" in Dorchester, Roxbury and Lynn of violating the federal Fair Housing Act through sexual harassment and intimidation over a five-year period.
In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Boston, the US Attorney's office charged that Peter McCarthy of Steps to Solutions "subjected many female tenants of the sober homes to discrimination based on sex, including unwelcome severe, pervasive, and quid pro quo sexual harassment on multiple occasions," by demanding sex or sometimes just nude photos in exchange for favors such as breaks in rent or overnight passes to stay with a relative.
Unlike halfway houses, such as one approved for Lower Mills yesterday, sober homes are not regulated by the city or state. In the suit, the government said McCarthy rents entire houses, then rents out rooms to people trying to get sober, including houses at 27 Lithgow St. in Dorchester and 9 Kearsarge St. in Roxbury.
In one case, the government alleges, McCarthy told one woman that their kids could play together while he and she had sex in exchange for a pass to spend a night with her mother.
In another case, the government charges:
In or around 2019, Defendant McCarthy sent sexually explicit text messages to a female resident. McCarthy sent her texts that said “[your] body looks good to me,” “don’t hide that body,” and “send me a shower pic[ture].” The female resident stated that she did text him a sexually explicit photograph because she was behind on rent and feared that McCarthy would kick her out of the sober home if she did not do so.
The government added:
The experiences of these female tenants were not isolated instances. Rather, these instances were part of Defendant McCarthy's longstanding pattern or practice of illegal sexual harassment of numerous female tenants.
The above-described actions and conduct of Defendant McCarthy caused female tenants to suffer physical harm, fear, anxiety, and emotional distress, and inhibited their ability to remain in or secure housing.
In its suit, the government asks a judge to order McCarthy to immediately stop all this and to award damages to the women affected by his actions.