THE BRONX (PIX11) — When four small children were found unresponsive Friday after nap time at a Bronx day care, first responders were quick to notice signs of a fentanyl overdose and revived three of them with Narcan. Sadly, toddler Nicholas Dominici could not be saved.
This was not the first time alleged drug traffickers put children at severe risk with narcotics stored in a day care center.
“They think of the worst places to hide their drugs to conceal them, so they won’t be discovered by law enforcement,” said Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office. “A day care, though, is completely outrageous.”
Ten years ago, PIX11 News reported on the case of Fun World Child Care Center, which was run out of a private house on Rosedale Avenue in the Bronx. When a strike force that included the DEA raided the premises, agents found the owners were stashing cocaine inside “Big Wheels” lunch boxes in the refrigerator. About $180,000 in cash was kept in secret hiding places, along with guns. Most of the cash was tucked away in a stash house diagonally across the street.
“All the indications were that this was very high-level drug trafficking,” the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, said in 2013.
Five years later, PIX11’s Nicole Johnson spoke to a mother and daughter about crack cocaine being passed around among children at Lil’ Inventors Day Care, also located in the Bronx. A 4-year-old girl had apparently put one of the crack rocks in her mouth before spitting it out.
“Had my daughter ingested a capsule and not spit it out, I would be planning a funeral right now,” the mother told Johnson in 2018.
The fentanyl crisis across the United States has made the overdose situation that much worse.
A study published by the journal Pediatrics this year noted between 2005 and 2018, 731 children under the age of 5 died from opioid poisoning. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more lethal than heroin, even in a minuscule dose.
There have been reports in recent years of small children exposed at home — and in homeless shelters — with fatal results.
Fentanyl showed up in the urine of an 8-month-old girl, who was revived with Narcan on Friday and rushed to Montefiore Medical Center with two little boys from the Divino Nino day care center on Morris Avenue. Her 2-year-old brother was in cardiac arrest and so was Nicholas Dominici, who would have turned 2 in November. Dominici was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Frank Tarentino said the traffickers are not thinking of vulnerable children when they stash their drugs.
“These traffickers will go to any extent, by all means necessary, in a half trillion dollar a year business,” Tarentino told PIX11 News. “They’re motivated by greed.”
The NYPD said it found a kilo of white powder, along with a kilo press often used to make blocks of fentanyl, inside a hallway closet at the day care. Police said they also found a kilo press in a room that was rented by Carlisto Brito, 41, at the day care.
Both Brito and Grei Mendez, the owner of the day care, have been charged with depraved indifference, murder, manslaughter, assault, and endangering the welfare of a child (4 counts) in the criminal complaint presented in Bronx Criminal Court. A man who was referred to as Mendez’s husband was being sought by police and federal agents.
Brito and Mendez were both remanded to jail without bail after their arraignment in Bronx court.
The DEA’s New York boss said, as a father of three, he empathizes with the grief the children’s parents are going through.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Tarentino said.