Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Lisa O. Monaco, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Frank A. Tarentino III, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and Edward A. Caban, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging GREI MENDEZ and CARLISTO ACEVEDO BRITO 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.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Parents entrusted Grei Mendez with the care of their children. 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.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said: “The charges announced today are the tragic result of fentanyl poisoning more innocent Americans, this time young children. 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.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III said: “Tragedy doesn’t begin to describe the events that took place at Divino Niño Daycare. 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.”
NYPD Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban said: “This case reflects every parent’s worst nightmare. 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, GREI MENDEZ and CARLISTO 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 September 15, 2023, 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.
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MENDEZ, 36, and ACEVEDO BRITO, 41, both of the Bronx, New York, 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 mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The statutory minimum and maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA, the NYPD, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) New York Strike Force, the SDNY Digital Forensic Unit, and the Complex Analytical and Social Media Enhancement Team at the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Mr. Williams also thanked the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office for its coordination on this case.
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; U.S. Internal Revenue Service, 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.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon C. Thompson and Maggie Lynaugh are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact descried therein should be treated as an allegation.