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Lawsuit: Gross suburban landlord tried trading rent for sex

This apartment in Bloomington is one of several named in a harassment complaint against the property manager and owners.

This apartment in Bloomington is one of several named in a harassment complaint against the property manager and owners. Google Maps

In 2017, a woman looking to rent an apartment met with Reese Pfeiffer, co-owner of numerous properties in the Minneapolis suburbs.

That meeting went to a weird and upsetting place, as Pfeiffer started touching the prospective tenant’s inner thigh and breasts, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Pfeiffer allegedly asked the woman if she’d be living with a man, offered her money for sexual favors, and continued to harass her when he dropped by to collect rent for the next two years or so.

When she couldn’t pay rent, Pfeiffer allegedly offered the woman money or gave her some wiggle room on late payments.

According to court documents, this woman wasn’t alone. Pfeiffer allegedly treated a lot of the women he rented to this way: fondling breasts and buttocks, asking if they stripped or danced on the side, all the while proffering extra time for payments or repairs.

“You have a nice ass,” he allegedly told another tenant. “If I help you, you may need to help me. I may want to fuck you from time to time.”

One tenant took it upon herself in 2018 to record video of Pfeiffer rubbing her upper inner thigh when they were sitting in a car, and he was completing a form she needed for emergency county assistance for her rent and security deposit.

Later on, when she fell behind on payments, he allegedly told her, “I know a way you can catch up on your rent, but you just won't give in.”

When she declined to pay Pfeiffer in sexual favors, she was evicted.

The allegations add up to a series of “sexually hostile housing environments” levied against financially vulnerable tenants, the complaint says. Properties where renters were subjected to Pfeiffer's treatment "include, but are not limited to":

  • 9840 Nicollet Ave. S., Bloomington
  • 4001 Welcome Ave. N., Robbinsdale
  • 2755 Douglas Dr. N., Crystal
  • 3237 Douglas Dr. N., Crystal
  • 4848 Maryland Ave. N., Crystal
  • 2551 Douglas Dr. N., Golden Valley

All told, six different women’s experiences are described therein, with assurances that these were not “the only instances” of Pfeiffer’s sexual harassment.

“Rather, these instances were part of Pfeiffer’s pattern or practice of illegal sexual harassment of multiple female tenants,” it says.

The complaint also names Pfeiffer's fellow property owners and business partners (Jeanne Pfeiffer, Michael Fruen, Jeremy Martineau) and related business entities (Fruen & Pfeiffer, LLP and M. Fruen Properties) as "vicariously" responsible for the harassment, and on the hook for violating the Fair Housing Act. In some cases Reese Pfeiffer and Michael Fruen were joint owners, though Fruen also used Pfeiffer as property manager on other locations of his. Through their limited liability partnership, Fruen and Pfeiffer own or manage "at least 17 properties," mostly in Golden Valley, Crystal, and Robbinsdale.

Jeanne Pfeiffer is Reese Pfeiffer's wife, and the two own at least five rental properties.

The feds are seeking an immediate stop to the behavior, monetary damages, and any additional relief “as the interests of justice may require.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate this type of discrimination and stands ready to deploy all available enforcement tools to see that justice is serviced,” Minnesota U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said in a statement.

If you believe you have information relevant to this case, you're encouraged to contact the United States Attorney’s Office at 612-296-3984.