The owner of a New York City day care center, Grei Mendez, and a tenant, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, are facing new federal narcotics conspiracy charges after a 1-year-old child died from exposure to fentanyl. Federal prosecutors allege that Mendez took steps to cover up her involvement in a drug operation, even as medics treated several children in her care who were poisoned by the opioid. Mendez and Brito were previously charged in state court with murder of “depraved indifference” in the death of Nicholas Dominici.
Authorities discovered a kilogram of fentanyl stored on top of playmats used by children at the Bronx day care center, along with devices for packing and mixing narcotics. Four children, including Dominici, were sickened by the fentanyl, and three others were hospitalized. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damien Williams stated that Mendez and Brito “poisoned four babies and killed one of them because they were running a drug operation from a day care center.”
Surveillance footage showed Mendez making three phone calls, including two to her husband, before dialing 911 upon discovering the unresponsive children. The footage also captured her husband leaving the Bronx apartment with shopping bags through a back alley. Federal prosecutors allege that Mendez and her husband attempted to cover up the narcotics operation by deleting thousands of texts. Mendez’s husband is currently being sought by authorities.
Carlisto Acevedo Brito, a tenant of the apartment and a cousin to Mendez’s husband, was charged alongside Mendez for his alleged role in the drug operations. A kilogram press device was recovered from Brito’s adjoining room.
Both Mendez and Brito have denied any knowledge of drugs in the day care center. Mendez’s attorney, Andres Aranda, stated that she acted immediately to get the children care upon discovering their unresponsiveness.
The day care facility passed inspections, including a surprise visit on September 6. New York City has seen a rise in opioid-related deaths, with fentanyl being the primary cause. The death of Nicholas Dominici has deeply affected the city, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damien Williams. New York City Mayor Eric Adams called the incident an “indictment on our society.”