Bronx daycare overdose suspects face federal drug charges

new York

Two people have been charged with federal drug crimes for the overdose death of a 1-year-old boy and the hospitalization of three other children at a Bronx daycare, according to a complaint filed Monday in the Southern District of New York.

Grei Mendez, 36, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, who had previously been charged with murder in state court, were charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with the intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death.

Both defendants were arrested and will appear in magistrate court Tuesday afternoon, according to the Southern District of New York.

According to court documents, Mendez is the owner and operator of the daycare, and Brito is her husband’s cousin and a tenant who resides in a room inside the daycare.

The charges stem from the death of a 1-year-old child Friday after he and three others were exposed to suspected opioids at the Divino Niño daycare in the Bronx.

The incident “shocked the conscience of the city,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, told reporters Tuesday.

The two defendants, along with their accomplices, ran a fentanyl distribution business out of the building, Williams said. He also said law enforcement was looking for Mendez’s husband.

New York City police were called to the daycare Friday afternoon, where they found three children unconscious. First responders administered Narcan, an opioid reversal treatment, to the three children to try to resuscitate them, NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said.

Two children survived, but 1-year-old Nicholas died at Montefiore Medical Center, the New York Police Department said in a statement.

Additionally, another 2-year-old boy, whose family had brought him home from daycare around 12:15 p.m., was then brought to BronxCare Health System where he was administered Narcan, which saved his life, Kenny said.

A kilogram of fentanyl was discovered Friday in an area where children were napping at the daycare, the chief of detectives said.

According to the federal complaint, a DEA special agent involved in the investigation explained how he believed Mendez attempted to remove evidence from the daycare before a search by law enforcement.

Mendez called 911 to report the unconscious children around 2:40 p.m. Friday, but made three more calls before calling emergency services: one to another daycare worker and two to her husband, according to the affidavit of the agent in the complaint.

After speaking to 911, Mendez called her husband several times, according to the complaint.

Several minutes before law enforcement arrived, the DEA agent said, surveillance footage showed Mendez’s husband enter the daycare “empty-handed, then emerge about two minutes later with this which appears to be two shopping bags loaded with contents.”

Instead of exiting through the front door of the daycare, Mendez’s husband exited through an alley, the officer said.

Surveillance footage also showed Mendez’s husband at the daycare earlier Friday, although Mendez said no one came to the daycare that day, according to the complaint.

Additionally, Mendez deleted approximately 21,526 messages from an “encrypted messaging app” and sent several messages to her husband while law enforcement was with her after the overdoses, the agent said.

The DEA agent said in his affidavit that Brito, the other defendant, exchanged messages indicating “his involvement in drug trafficking.” Several messages between Brito and an unknown male in August 2023 involved discussions about the presence of law enforcement outside the daycare, according to the complaint.

This same individual sent Brito a message on September 12 – three days before the overdoses – informing him that they had left him “una torta” – which translates to “sandwich” or “cake” in Spanish, according to the documents judicial.

The term “cake” is often used to refer to a kilo of narcotics, the agent explained.


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