June 12, 2024

NEW YORK — The two people arrested in the death of 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici at a day care facility in the Bronx are now facing federal charges.

That’s because of the amount of drugs found.

Three other kids were hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl that was allegedly being processed at the site.

Police said they found a kilogram of fentanyl hidden beneath the mat the children were napping on.

Watch federal charges get announced in Bronx day care fentanyl death

Federal officials held a news conference to discuss the federal charges Tuesday. We brought that news conference to you live 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 the Grei Mendez tried to cover up the fentanyl operation before calling emergency responders. Mendez and her husband’s cousin Carlisto Acevedo Brito are under arrest on murder and drug charges. The now face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death.

“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 before 911, she called a co-conspirator. Minutes later, a con-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.”

“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.

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 a United States Attorney here, but I’m a father,” Williams said. “Common sense dictates when you drop off your baby, you expect your baby to be kept safe. I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it as incredibly reckless. It’s an incredibly reckless thing to do, to endanger life like that.”

Williams said the federal charges carry a range of 20 years to life in prison.

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.

Federal authorities say this picture shows a kilgoram of fentanyl found at Divino Nino day care, where toddler Nicholas Dominici died.  / Credit: U.S Attorney's Office

Federal authorities say this picture shows a kilgoram of fentanyl found at Divino Nino day care, where toddler Nicholas Dominici died. / Credit: U.S Attorney’s Office

The pictures show what is alleged a kilo of fentanyl, and a kilo press, which is a device used to package narcotics.

Authorities said this is a kilo press device found at Divino Nino day care in the Bronx, where toddler Nicholas Dominici died.  / Credit: U.S Attorney's Office

Authorities said this is a kilo press device found at Divino Nino day care in the Bronx, where toddler Nicholas Dominici died. / Credit: U.S Attorney’s Office

Investigators are trying to find the husband of the Divino Nino day care’s owner.

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.

Related story: Yale researcher finds alarming rise in child fentanyl deaths nationwide

“That little piece, that little corner, about less than the size of a fingernail. A tenth of a size of a fingernail can kill and adult. So imagine what it could do to a child,” said Mayor Eric Adams, highlighting the drug’s potency.

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