NEW YORK — The two people arrested in the death of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici at a day care facility in New York Cityare now facing federal charges.
That’s because of the amount of drugs found. In fact, authorities said they found enough fentanyl to kill 500,000 people.
Three other kids were hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl that was allegedly being processed at the site in the Bronx.
Police said they found a kilogram of fentanyl in a hallway closet at the day care, stacked on top of children’s play mats. They also said they found three kilo press machines, which are used to package drugs.
Details of the investigation revealed
Federal officials held a news conference to discuss the federal charges Tuesday. We brought that news conference to youlive on CBS News New York.
“This case is different. We allege the defendants poisoned four babies, and killed one of them, because they were running a drug operation from a day care center. A day care center – a place where children should be kept safe, not surrounded by a drug that can kill them in an instant,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.
Williams said Grei Mendez tried to cover up the fentanyl operation before calling emergency responders. Mendez and her husband’s cousin Carlisto Acevedo Brito, who was renting a bedroom at the day care, are under arrest on murder and drug charges. They now face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death.
Williams said the federal charges carry a range of 20 years to life in prison.
Investigators said evidence proves Mendez and Brito were active participants in the drug-running scheme.
“As alleged in the complaint, before emergency personnel arrived at the day care, before they arrived, Mendez and a co-conspirator tried to cover up what happened. Seconds before Mendez called 911, she called a co-conspirator. Minutes later, a co-conspirator arrived at the day care. Minutes later, he left the day care and fled out the back alley, carrying two full shopping bags. And all of that happened while the children, the babies, were suffering from the effects of fentanyl poisoning and in desperate need of help,” Williams said.
“In my 32 years of government service, 25 of which has been spent serving with the DEA, there is no more devastating news or tragedy than the loss of a child, and every New Yorker should be outraged by this senseless tragedy,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said.
Officers are searching for Mendez’s husband, who’s described in court records as a co-conspirator.
Williams was asked how confident they were they would find the co-conspirator.
“We’re going to get him,” Williams said.
Investigators say as Mendez was talking to officers she messaged her husband that police were asking about him and suggested he find a lawyer.
Police also searched Brito’s phone. They said Brito received messages in August and September that they believe were related to the distribution of drugs from the day care.
When questioned by detectives, both Brito and Mendez denied having any knowledge of the drugs.
The criminal complaint also says Mendez deleted more than 21,500 messages from an app on which she communicated with her husband between March of 2021 and this month.
Fentanyl is “the most urgent threat in our nation”
Tarentino said more 110,000 Americans have died as a result of drug poisoning.
“Fentanyl is a killer. Fentanyl crept into our illicit drug supply like a cancer, slowly and deceptively, and it is now in everything, everywhere, killing victims instantly and indiscriminately. Fentanyl is the most urgent threat in our nation and the tragedy that unfolded in the Bronx at the Divino Nino day care center demonstrates the danger that fentanyl poses to every New Yorker,” Tarentino said.
“This is a tragedy, and my heart breaks for the children and their families. But I promise you this: We’re going to keep fighting for justice, in this case and every other case involving this deadly poison,” Williams said. “I also have a message for anyone out there who is selling fentanyl: Stop pushing this poison. It kills. It ruins lives, and it will ruin yours too when we catch you, convict you, and send you to federal prison.”
Williams called fentanyl a “public health crisis.”
“I’m a lawyer, I’m the United States Attorney here, but I’m a father,” Williams said. “Common sense dictates when you drop off your baby, you expect the baby to be kept safe. I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it other than it being incredibly reckless, one of the most reckless things that a human can do, to endanger the life of a child like that.”
Web Extra: Read the federal complaint (.pdf)
We also have new photos of what police said are drugs and paraphernalia from inside the day care.
The pictures show what is allegedly a kilo of fentanyl and a kilo press.
Watch: Adams blasts fentanyl problem after Bronx day care death
City officials defended their inspectors, who had given the center the OK days earlier.
“I’m very sorry, but one of the things my child care inspectors are not trained to do is look for fentanyl. But maybe we need to start,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.
“That little piece, that little corner, about less than the size of a fingernail. A tenth of a size of a fingernail can kill an adult. So imagine what it could do to a child,” said Mayor Eric Adams, highlighting the drug’s potency.