The owner of a New York City day care where a 1-year-old boy died from fentanyl exposure has been hit with federal drug conspiracy charges along with her husband’s cousin.
Grei Mendez De Ventura, 36, the owner of Divino Nino Daycare and her alleged accomplice Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, were charged on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court with one count of possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death.
Prosecutors said the pair ‘used the day care center front to cloak their true operation: a fentanyl drug mill.’
Nicholas Feliz Dominici, a 1-year-old boy, who had only been at the center for a week, died from fentanyl exposure. Three other children fell ill and were hospitalized with one in critical condition.
The alleged drug duo were reportedly cutting up the drugs near the area where the children nap. De Ventura reportedly stood on the sidelines as her cohort cut the opioids. Some fentanyl particles kicked into the air and the children are believed to have inhaled the deadly drug, sources said.
Divino Nino owner Grei Mendez De Ventura, 36, is seen on Sunday after her arrest outside of the 52nd Precinct. She was charged on Tuesday with one count of possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death
De Ventura’s alleged co-conspirator Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, (pictured) kept his head down as he left NYC’s 52nd precinct after also being arrested in connection to the overdose
Pictured: Nicholas Feliz-Dominici, 1, died on Friday after ingesting fentanyl at a Bronx day care
Both Da Ventra and Brito are being held without bail on multiple charges, including state counts of manslaughter, depraved indifference to murder and criminal possession of narcotics.
A third suspect is still being sought. Police have launched a manhunt for Da Ventura’s husband, who is believed to be the ‘ring leader’ in the drug operation, officials said.
An NYPD spokesperson told DailyMail.com on Tuesday the investigation is ongoing.
On Friday, before police arrived at the Morris Avenue apartment, Da Ventura had called several people, including her husband, before calling 911 to get help for the children.
Detectives said they had also recovered video of both the husband and other people fleeing the day care with bags of unknown contents in the initial confusion, ABC7 News reported.
Da Ventura, 36, opened the Bronx day care earlier this year, and on September 6 passed a surprise inspection.
Divino Nino Daycare was registered under the city’s Department of Children and Family Service since it was considered a home-based business. The day care was registered to care for up to 8 children, between 6 weeks to 12 years old, records show.
Nicholas Feliz-Dominici‘s grief-stricken parents Zoila Dominici and Otoniel Feliz said the day care was recommended by Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.
The heartbroken couple, who are parents to four other children, were trying to come to terms with the unexpected and tragic death of their youngest child.
Law enforcement sources believe that the basement under the day care where Brito lived was actually a front for drugs
NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny said on Monday that police discovered ‘a kilogram of fentanyl in an area that was used to give the children naps.’
He further explained, the fentanyl was ‘laying underneath a mat where children had been sleeping earlier.’ And, explained that the area where the children supposedly napped is located in a back room in the apartment.
Officials said nearly a kilo of fentanyl and a kilo press, a device typically used to combine fentanyl with either cocaine or heroin was discovered.
According to Kenny, ‘one grain, two grains of fentanyl can take down a grown man so even the residue itself for a small child, would cause the death.’
According to reports, there were no previous complaints made against Divino Nino Daycare.
But, some neighbors had their concerns about what was taking place behind the doors of the apartment. One longtime neighbor said she never saw any children – arriving or leaving- the residence.
‘It was a day care for a year with no children. For one year, she had a day care with no children but people go in. But no babies?,’ she told The New York Post.
Frank A. Tarentino III (pictured) Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division covering the State of New York spoke at a press conference on Monday about fentanyl and the babies that were exposed to the deadly chemical at a Bronx day care
US Attorney for the Southern District, Damian Williams spoke at Monday’s announcement of the new federal charges
She also revealed Da Ventura would not allow her own child to stay in the apartment where other children were being cared for.
‘A day care with no children and men coming in and out. Yes, we knew something. We knew something, something was not good happening there.’
‘We all said, ‘Drogas.’ How could you not know?’
She alleged that Da Ventura’s day care started getting busier two months ago when she started getting some children, including a baby two months ago, and then two more children a few weeks before the tragedy.