New York: The owner of a New York City daycare centre where a one-year-old died after being exposed to fentanyl took steps to cover up her involvement in a sprawling drug operation, even as medics rushed to treat several children in her care who were poisoned by the opioid, federal prosecutors said.
The daycare owner, Grei Mendez, and a man who rented a room from her, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, were hit with new federal narcotics conspiracy charges on Tuesday. They were previously charged in state court with murder of “depraved indifference” in the death of one-year-old Nicholas Dominici.
Officials say they discovered a kilogram of fentanyl stored on top of play mats used by children who attended the Bronx day care center, as well as devices for packing and mixing narcotics.
The fentanyl is believed to have sickened four children, including Dominici, who died last Friday afternoon. Three others — ranging in age from eight months to two years old — were hospitalised.
“The defendants poisoned four babies and killed one of them because they were running a drug operation from a daycare center,” Manhattan US Attorney Damien Williams said at a news conference.
On Friday afternoon, Mendez, 36, discovered the young children were not waking up from nap time. She then made three calls, including two to her husband, before dialling 911, the criminal complaint alleged.
Surveillance footage showed him entering the Bronx apartment and whisking at least two full shopping bags out of the building through a back alley. Minutes later, emergency medical personnel arrived to find the children showing signs of opioid intoxication.
The phone calls, along with the apparent deletion of thousands of texts between Mendez and her husband, suggested an effort to cover up the narcotics operation inside the apartment, federal prosecutors alleged.
Williams said authorities were still seeking Mendez’s husband as of Tuesday afternoon. He was not named by either state or federal court filings.