KINGSBRIDGE, BRONX (WABC) — Two people detained in connection with the death of a 1-year-old child at a Bronx day care center now face federal charges.
Day care center owners Grei Mendez and Carlisto Acevedo Brito were charged with possession of narcotics with intent to distribute causing death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics causing death, It involved overdoses of four children under the age of three, one of whom died, at a day care centre.
Police are still looking for Mendez’s husband for questioning. They say he was caught on video fleeing the scene of Friday’s fatal fentanyl exposure.
Emergency crews were called to the Divino Nino Day Care Center at 2707 Morris Ave. in Kingsbridge on Friday afternoon for reports of a cardiac arrest.
Police say 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici died after being exposed to fentanyl at a day care center.
Acevedo Brito, 41, and Mendez, 36, were charged with 11 counts of murder, manslaughter and assault. Officials said Brito was a tenant in the room Mendez rented and was a cousin of Mendez’s husband.
Detectives learned that instead of calling 911 after Friday afternoon’s tragedy, Mendez spoke to her husband multiple times. They said they also found video of the husband and others fleeing the day care with bags containing unknown items during the initial chaos.
The criminal complaint alleges that a kilogram of fentanyl was stored on a children’s play mat used for naps at the day care.
The indictment alleges that since July, the two indicted individuals conspired to distribute fentanyl at day care centers, retaining large amounts of fentanyl “despite the presence of children, including infants, at the day care centers on a daily basis.” .
Officials said the defendants also kept kilogram presses at the day care center, which are designed to recompress powdered drugs commonly used by drug traffickers in factories or other locations where drugs are broken down and combined with fillers or other narcotics. , sold in portions.
“As a result of the defendants’ drug conspiracy, on or about September 15, 2023, four children under the age of three appeared to be intoxicated from exposure to fentanyl at a day care center. Three of the children appeared to have been intoxicated from exposure to fentanyl. ” The children were taken to hospital with serious injuries. The fourth child, a one-year-old boy, died,” the complaint states.
At 2:40 p.m., Mendez, a day care center operator, called 911 to report that the child in her care was unresponsive.
Dominici was pronounced dead at the hospital and the others, who ranged in age from 8 months to 2 years old, were given an anesthetic. A urinalysis of one of the victims confirmed the presence of fentanyl in the child’s system.
“Fentanyl is extremely dangerous,” said New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan. “I use that word wisely because I have no other words to describe how dangerous this drug is.”
Prosecutors said Mendez rented a room at the day care center from Brito and engaged in “reckless, depraved conduct.”
An emotional Mayor Eric Adams expressed outrage over the crime on Monday.
“It’s crazy that we lost one child to this dangerous substance,” Adams said. “We almost lost four kids to this dangerous substance. There needs to be a comprehensive nationwide crackdown on this drug getting into our City.”
Mendez’s lawyer said his client had no idea her husband’s cousin was storing drugs at her day care center where she rented a room for $200 a week.
“Her only crime was renting her room to a heavyweight,” lawyer Andres Aranda said. “There is no evidence that she did anything other than take proper care of these children. “
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The father of one of the two-year-old boys says it’s a miracle his son, Jaziel Lino, survived after being exposed to fentanyl on just his fourth day at day care . He is back home now.
Lino’s father said that looking back now, he found it suspicious that three men were standing outside the day care center on Thursday and Friday.
With tears in his eyes and a heavy heart, Dominic’s father, Otoniel Feliz, was mourning and thinking about how he lost his son in a place he thought was safe.
“I love him, I miss him, I want him back, but nothing can bring me back my son. When I come home from get off work and walk in the door, he’ll say ‘Dad, Daddy!'” Otoniel said. Feliz. “My wife was on her way to daycare. She had planned to pick him up early. Shortly before she arrived, she got a call and saw the ambulance.”
The day care center, which serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old, opened as recently as January and passed a surprise inspection by city inspectors last week, finding no violations.
Asked whether the circumstances leading up to the incident were covered up, Adams insisted the city did its due diligence and conducted inspections, including surprise inspections and background checks.
“Those who are protecting our children are not doing their job,” Adams said. “Part of that relationship is based on trust, and those who are caring for our children are going to do it in a safe way. They broke that trust. .”
After removing the children from the day care center, the fire department tested the air for environmental hazards and found no signs of carbon monoxide. Officers then became suspicious of opioid exposure and executed a search warrant, searching rooms, cabinets and other spaces and finding drug packaging devices.
A grand jury is scheduled to convene Thursday.
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