Two people were charged with federal drug crimes in 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, previously charged in state court with murder, were charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute narcotics causing death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics spread that can cause death.
Both suspects have been arrested and will appear before a magistrate on Tuesday afternoon, the Southern District of New York said.
According to court documents, Mendez is the owner and operator of the daycare, and Brito is her husband’s cousin and a tenant who lives in a bedroom within 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 Divino Niño daycare in the Bronx.
The incident has “shocked the conscience of the city,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, told reporters on Tuesday.
The two defendants, along with co-conspirators, ran a fentanyl distribution business out of the building, Williams said. He also said police were looking for Mendez’s husband.
New York City police were called to the daycare Friday afternoon, where they discovered three unconscious children. First responders administered Narcan, an opioid reversal treatment, to all three children in an attempt to revive them, NYPD Chief Joseph Kenny said.
Two children survived, but 1-year-old Nicholas died at Montefiore Medical Center, the NYPD said in a statement.
In addition, another 2-year-old boy, whose family brought him home from daycare around 12:15 p.m., was later taken to BronxCare Health System where he was given Narcan, which saved his life, Kenny said.
One kilo of fentanyl was found in an area where children were taking a nap at the daycare center on Friday, the chief of police said.
The complaint details alleged attempts to remove evidence
According to the federal complaint, a DEA special agent involved in the investigation detailed how he believed Mendez attempted to remove evidence from the daycare prior to a law enforcement search.
Mendez called 911 around 2:40 p.m. Friday to report the unresponsive children, but made three more calls before calling 911: one to another daycare worker and two to her husband, according to the officer’s statement in the complaint.
After speaking to 911, Mendez called her husband again several times, the complaint said.
Minutes before police arrived, the DEA agent said, surveillance footage showed Mendez’s husband entering the daycare “empty-handed and exiting approximately two minutes later with what appears to be two shopping bags full of contents.”
Instead of exiting through the daycare’s front door, Mendez’s husband exited through an alley, the officer said.
Surveillance footage also showed Mendez’s husband at the daycare earlier Friday, despite Mendez claiming no one had come to the daycare that day, the complaint said.
Additionally, Mendez deleted approximately 21,526 messages from “an encrypted messaging application” and sent her husband several messages while police were with her after the overdoses, the officer said.
The DEA agent said in his affidavit that Brito, the other defendant, had exchanged messages that indicated he was “participating in narcotics trafficking.” Several messages between Brito and an unknown person in August 2023 involved discussions about the presence of law enforcement outside the daycare, the complaint said.
That same person messaged Brito on Sept. 12 — three days before the overdoses — saying they had left him “una torta” — which translates to “sandwich” or “cake” in Spanish, according to court documents.
“Cake” is often used to refer to a pound of narcotics, the officer said.
CNN’s Lauren del Valle, Rob Frehse and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.
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