The owner of a New York City daycare was indicted on federal drug charges after one child died and three more were hospitalized from fentanyl overdoses.
Grei Mendez, the owner and operator of the Divino Nino Daycare in the Bronx, was charged with possession of narcotics with intent to distribute after four children in her care overdosed on Friday.
Carlisto Acevedo Brito, a man who rents a room from Mendez in the same apartment, is also facing the same charges.
‘Parents entrusted Grei Mendez with the care of their children,’ US Attorney Damian Williams said. ‘Instead of diligently safeguarding the well-being of those children, she and her co-conspirators put them directly in harm’s way, running a narcotics operation and storing deadly fentanyl out of the very space in which the children ate, slept, and played.’
The charges come after an intense investigation following the death of Nicholas Feliz-Dominici, a 1-year-old infant, who overdosed on the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Feliz-Dominici and two other children were rushed to the hospital on Friday, September 15 after they were found unresponsive.
A fourth child, whose parent picked them up earlier, was also hospitalized with the same symptoms.
A subsequent investigation by the New York Police Department (NYPD) uncovered a kilogram of fentanyl at daycare, as well as three kilo presses.
Federal prosecutors said the devices were used for ‘the recompression of drugs in powder form commonly used by narcotics traffickers at “mills” or other locations where narcotic drugs are broken down, combined with fillers, and portioned for sale.’
According to an indictment unsealed on Tuesday, the drugs and paraphernalia were found under play mats in a room where the children took naps.
‘It was laid underneath a mat where the children had been sleeping earlier,’ said NYPD Assistant Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny.
The indictment also alleges that before Mendez called 911, she first called an unidentified co-conspirator to help her hide evidence.
The co-conspirator was not named in the indictment, but has been previously identified as Mendez’s husband, who is also Brito’s cousin.
According to prosecutors, Mendez’s husband ‘arrived at the Daycare, stayed for approximately two minutes, and then exited out a back alleyway carrying two full shopping bags — all while the children were unresponsive and awaiting medical assistance.’
Surveillance footage from the daycare showed Mendez’s husband leaving moments before first responders arrived.
Mendez also allegedly deleted thousands of texts between her and her husband before investigators executed the search warrant.
Brito rented a room in the apartment Mendez used for the daycare. After searching the entire unit, they found one of the kilo presses in a closet in his room.
A search of his phone also revealed ‘numerous messages suggestive of his involvement in narcotics trafficking.’
Mendez and Brito were arrested on TKTK. They are also facing state charges of murder, manslaughter, assault, drug possession, and child endangerment.
Both Mendez and Brito had no arrests prior to the incident on Friday.
If convicted on the federal charges, Mendez and Brito face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
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