In the heart of New York City, a tragic incident unfolded at a daycare facility, where a 1-year-old boy fell seriously ill and subsequently lost his life. Shockingly, three other children also fell victim to apparent opioid exposure. Federal charges have been brought against the owner of the daycare center, implicating them in the storage of drugs atop children’s playmats.
Grei Mendez, aged 36, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, aged 41, find themselves facing grave charges. They stand accused of conspiring to distribute narcotics that ultimately led to a fatality and possessing narcotics with the intent to distribute, as revealed in an unsealed complaint filed in the Southern District of New York on a Tuesday.
The complaint, meticulously composed by an agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration, asserts that within the daycare premises, narcotics were concealed. It is both startling and distressing that substantial quantities of fentanyl, including a kilogram of this perilous substance, were stashed atop the very playmats that innocent children frequented. These illicit substances were discovered in a closet situated within the hallway.
Equally unsettling, the investigators stumbled upon two kilo presses, tools typically employed by illicit drug dealers for packaging large quantities of narcotics. Notably, these presses were located within the same hallway closet, and an additional one was discovered in Brito’s bedroom.
The allegations within the complaint revolve around the duo’s purported collaboration in the distribution of fentanyl within the Bronx residence known as “Divino Niño,” which functioned as a daycare. Tragically, this establishment bore witness to four children falling seriously ill, culminating in the heart-wrenching demise of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici on a fateful Friday. The complaint contends that Mendez and Brito, the latter being Mendez’s husband’s cousin who rented a room within the daycare, operated jointly between the months of July and September, as per the complaint’s claims.
In a statement to NBC News, Andres Manual Aranda, legal counsel for Mendez, asserted that Mendez was entirely oblivious to the presence of drugs within the premises and that she promptly dialed 911 upon sensing that something was awry with the children.
The complaint further divulges that prior to contacting the authorities at 2:40 p.m., Mendez initiated three other calls. The first was to a fellow daycare employee at 2:39 p.m., followed by two calls to an individual she later identified as her spouse.
The initial call to her husband went unanswered, and the subsequent call lasted a mere 10 seconds.
Following her conversation with 911, she made several more attempts to reach her husband. Surveillance footage, captured minutes before emergency responders arrived at the scene, depicted her husband entering the daycare empty-handed, only to exit two minutes later, bearing what appeared to be two laden shopping bags. It’s worth noting that he opted to leave through the back alley rather than the front door.
The law enforcement officer who authored the complaint characterized this behavior as indicative of an attempt to surreptitiously remove materials from the daycare to evade detection by law enforcement.
A scrutiny of Mendez’s mobile phone unveiled the deletion of over 21,000 messages from an encrypted messaging application, wherein she had exchanged messages with her husband from March 2021 up until the ill-fated Friday. The purged messages revealed Mendez informing her husband of law enforcement’s inquiries about him. In response, he advised her to assert that he was engaged in work activities and suggested seeking legal representation. It is alleged that she erased these messages prior to the arrival of law enforcement at the daycare.
In the case of Brito, an examination of his electronic devices unearthed numerous correspondences with other individuals that strongly indicated his involvement in the trafficking of narcotics, according to the complaint.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, declared during a news conference on Tuesday that authorities were actively searching for Mendez’s husband. Williams emphasized, “Our commitment revolves around uncovering the root of this matter. These illicit substances had an origin, and we are dedicated to tracing them back to their roots.”