The owner of the New York City daycare where a 1-year-old boy fell ill and later died and three other children fell ill from apparent opioid exposure has been charged with federal drug conspiracy.
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 an indictment unsealed Tuesday -fair.
The complaint accuses the two of conspiring together to distribute fentanyl at the Bronx “Divino Niño” day care center, which saw four children fall ill and resulted in the death of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici on Friday.
Mendez and Brito — a cousin of Mendez’s husband who rented a room at the daycare — worked together from July to September, the complaint alleged.
An attorney for Mendez, Andres Manual Aranda, told NBC News on Monday that Mendez had no idea there were drugs in the building and called 911 when he saw something wrong with the children.
The complaint, written by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, alleges they stored drugs at the daycare.
“Despite the daily presence of children, including infants, the defendants kept large quantities of fentanyl, including one kilogram of fentanyl stored on top of children’s rugs,” the complaint states, noting that the drugs were found in the hallway closet.
Additionally, two-kilo presses – devices used by drug traffickers to package large quantities of drugs – were found in the hallway closet and a third in Brito’s room.
The report revealed that before calling police at 2:40 p.m., Mendez made three other calls: the first to another daycare employee at 2:39 p.m., the second two to an individual she later said was her husband.
Her first call to him went unanswered, the second lasted just over 10 seconds.
After speaking with 911, she called her husband several times.
Several minutes before emergency personnel arrived on the scene, surveillance footage showed her husband entering the day care center empty-handed and leaving two minutes later “carrying what appeared to be two shopping bags loaded with contents,” the complaint said.
Instead of going out the front door, he went out the back alley.
The police officer who wrote the complaint classified the behavior as “an attempt to remove materials from the daycare center to avoid discovery by authorities.”
A search of Mendez’s phone found that she deleted more than 21,000 messages from an encrypted messaging app where she exchanged messages with her husband from March 2021 until Friday.
A review of deleted encrypted messages found that Mendez informed her husband that authorities were asking questions about him, the complaint said. He told her to let her know he was working and she told him to get a lawyer. She allegedly deleted the messages before authorities arrived at the daycare.
An analysis of Brito’s electronic devices showed that he exchanged numerous messages with other people that “indicate his participation in narcotics trafficking,” the complaint said.
Damian Williams, 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 will resolve. These drugs came from somewhere. Let’s make sure we get everything back to the source.”