A criminal complaint was unsealed today in Manhattan, New York, federal court charging Grei Mendez, 36, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, both of the Bronx, New York, with narcotics possession with intent to distribute resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death in connection with the poisoning of four children under the age of three, one of whom died, at a daycare facility in the Bronx. Mendez and Acevedo Brito are both in custody and will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer E. Willis.
“The charges announced today are the tragic result of fentanyl poisoning more innocent Americans, this time young children,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable anyone who plays a part in the supply-and-delivery chain that is flooding fentanyl into our communities. We will not rest in our efforts to protect the vulnerable.”
“Parents entrusted Grei Mendez with the care of their children,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “As alleged, instead of diligently safeguarding the well-being of those children, she and her co-conspirators put them directly in harm’s way, running a narcotics operation and storing deadly fentanyl out of the very space in which the children ate, slept, and played. The disregard shown by Mendez and her co-conspirators for the lives of the children under her care is simply staggering.”
“Tragedy doesn’t begin to describe the events that took place at Divino Niño Daycare,” said Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s New York Field Division. “This death and drug poisonings are every parent’s worst nightmare and clearly define the danger fentanyl poses to every New Yorker. Fentanyl kills indiscriminately, and the defendants’ callous and irresponsible disregard to safety led to two of the most heinous acts imaginable, causing the death of a child and poisoning three other children. These crimes are unacceptable. I commend the work of the investigators from the DEA and NYPD and our partners at the Southern District of New York who work tirelessly every single day to stop drug poisonings from taking too many lives too soon.”
“This case reflects every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban of the New York Police Department (NYPD). “These alleged drug traffickers brazenly went about their illicit business in one of the most ill-conceived locations imaginable, but they will be held accountable. I thank the dedicated investigators of the NYPD and the DEA, and everyone involved at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, for their efforts to secure justice for the most vulnerable New Yorkers among us – our children.”
As alleged in the complaint, from at least in or about July 2023 through at least in or about September 2023, Mendez and Acevedo Brito and others conspired to distribute fentanyl, including at a children’s daycare center in the Bronx (the Daycare). There, despite the daily presence of young children, the defendants maintained large quantities of fentanyl, including a kilogram of fentanyl stored on top of children’s playmats. In addition, the defendants maintained in the Daycare items purpose-built for the distribution of large quantities of narcotics, including three so-called “kilo presses,” which are designed for the recompression of drugs in powder form commonly used by narcotics traffickers at “mills” or other locations where narcotic drugs are broken down, combined with fillers, and portioned for sale. The narcotics and one of the kilo presses recovered are pictured below.
As a consequence of the defendants’ drug conspiracy, on or about Sept. 15, at the Daycare, four children, who were all under three years of age, appear to have experienced the effects of poisoning from exposure to fentanyl.
Prior to the arrival of emergency personnel at the Daycare on that date, Mendez, in concert with an unnamed co-conspirator (CC-1) removed evidence from the Daycare. In particular, immediately before Mendez called 911 to summon medical assistance for the children, she called CC-1. CC-1 then arrived at the Daycare, stayed for approximately two minutes, and then exited out a back alleyway carrying two full shopping bags – all while the children were unresponsive and awaiting medical assistance. Three of the children were hospitalized with serious injuries. The fourth child, a one-year-old boy, died.
Acevedo Brito resided in a bedroom located within the Daycare and is the cousin of CC-1. One of the kilo presses found at the Daycare was located in the closet inside Acevedo Brito’s bedroom. Additionally, a search of Acevedo Brito’s phone revealed numerous messages suggestive of his involvement in narcotics trafficking.
Mendez and Acevedo Brito are each charged in count one with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and in count two with narcotics distribution resulting in death. Both count one and count two carry a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The DEA, the NYPD, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) New York Strike Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s Digital Forensic Unit, and the Complex Analytical and Social Media Enhancement Team at the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area investigated the case, in coordination with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York’s Narcotics Unit is prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon C. Thompson and Maggie Lynaugh for Southern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution.
The OCDETF New York Strike Force is a crime-fighting unit comprising federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies supported by OCDETF and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The Strike Force is affiliated with the DEA’s New York Division and includes agents and officers of the DEA; NYPD; New York State Police; Homeland Security Investigations; IRS-Criminal Investigation; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; New York National Guard; U.S. Coast Guard; New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office; Fort Lee Police Department; Palisades Interstate Parkway Police; Teaneck Police Department; Hillsdale Police Department; Closter Police Department; Northvale Police Department; River Vale Police Department; Englewood Police Department; Saddle River Police Department; Bergen County Sheriff’s Department; Hawthorne Police Department; and Hackensack Police Department.