The owner of the New York City day care center where a 1-year-old boy fell ill and later died, and three other kids got sick from apparent opioid exposure, has been hit with federal drug conspiracy charges.
Grei Mendez, 36, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, were both charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death in the Southern District of New York, according to a complaint unsealed Tuesday.
The complaint charges the two of conspiring together to distribute fentanyl in the Bronx home day care “Divino Niño” that saw four children fall ill and resulted in the death of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici on Friday.
Mendez and Brito — the cousin of Mendez’s husband who was renting a bedroom in the day care— worked together from July to September, the complaint alleged.
An attorney for Mendez, Andres Manual Aranda, told NBC News Monday that Mendez had no idea drugs were in the building and she called 911 when she saw something wrong with the kids.
The complaint, written by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, alleges that they stored drugs in the day care space.
“Despite the daily presence of children, including infants, the defendants maintained large quantities of fentanyl, including a kilogram of fentanyl stored on top of children’s playmats,” the complaint said, noting the drugs were found in the hallway closet.
Additionally, two kilo presses — devices used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of drugs — were found in the hallway closet along with a third one in Brito’s bedroom.
The complaint revealed that before calling police at 2:40 p.m., Mendez made three other calls: the first to another employee of the day care at 2:39 p.m., the second two to an individual she later said was her husband.
Her first call to him was unanswered, the second lasted just over 10 seconds.
After speaking to 911, she called her husband several more times.
Several minutes before emergency personnel arrived to the scene, surveillance footage showed her husband enter the day care empty-handed and exit two minutes later “carrying what appears to be two shopping bags weighted with contents,” the complaint said.
Instead of leaving through the front door, he exited through the back alley.
The law enforcement officer who wrote the complaint called the behavior consist with “attempting to remove materials from the day care to avoid their discovery by law enforcement.”
A search of Mendez’s phone found that she deleted over 21,000 messages from an encrypted messaging application, where she exchanged messages with her husband from March 2021 to Friday.
A review of the deleted encrypted messages found that Mendez informed her husband that law enforcement was asking questions about him, the complaint said. He told her to tell them that he was working and she told him to look for a lawyer. She allegedly deleted the messages before law enforcement got to the day care.
A review of Brito’s electronic devices showed he exchanged numerous messages with others that “indicate his participation in narcotics trafficking,” the complaint said.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference Tuesday that authorities were still searching for Mendez’s husband.
Williams said: “This is something we’re going to run to ground. Those drugs came from somewhere. We’re going to make sure we get it all the way back to the source.”