A week after a one-year-old boy died of a suspected fentanyl overdose at a daycare in the Bronx, New York police are saying they have discovered more narcotics at the facility, located under a false floor.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) released photos Thursday taken inside the daycare, which appear to show clear bags filled with drugs hidden in the floorboards. The department said it found a “large quantity” of fentanyl, other narcotics and drug paraphernalia “recovered in a trap floor” that was underneath the children’s play area.
The drugs weighed about eight to 10 kilograms, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement official.
Last Friday, Nicholas Dominici, 1, died and three other children — two two-year-old boys and an eight-month-old girl — were hospitalized after they didn’t wake up from their nap at Divino Niño, a licensed daycare centre.
Emergency medical responders determined the children may have been exposed to opioids, so they administered naloxone and rushed them to a nearby hospital, Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny said in a press conference.
When police and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents searched the daycare, authorities “discovered a kilogram of fentanyl in an area that was used to give the children naps,” Kenny said. “It was laid underneath a mat where the children had been sleeping earlier.”
The three children who were hospitalized tested positive for fentanyl in their system, though Dominici’s official cause of death has not yet been released by medical examiners, the New York Times reported.
Police say they also found three kilo presses in the building, which are devices used to package large quantities of narcotics, Kenny said.
The trap door was found Wednesday after police say they received a tip that the daycare had more drugs inside than what was initially found. The tip gave specific details as to where to find the trap door and how to access it.
Two people have been arrested and indicted by a New York City grand jury for the incident: Grei Mendez, 36, who operated the daycare, and Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, a tenant in the apartment building where the daycare is located.
Both are facing life in prison for charges of murder, manslaughter, assault, child endangerment and criminal possession of a controlled substance. They have also been federally charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death, CNN reported.
Damian Williams, a lawyer for the Southern District of New York, says it’s believed that Mendez and Brito, along with other parties, ran a fentanyl distribution business from the apartment building where the daycare is located.
Meanwhile, Mendez’s lawyer Andres Aranda says her client didn’t know anything about the drugs, and she was just renting a room to Brito, who is her husband’s cousin.
“Her only crime is renting a room,” he said during Mendez’s arraignment on Sunday.
Investigators are still looking for Mendez’s husband, who is believed to be a third suspect in the overdose incident.
On that day, federal prosecutors say Mendez called her husband twice before calling 911 when she was unable to wake up some of the children from their nap. Before emergency responders arrived, her husband entered the apartment empty-handed and left minutes later with two shopping bags, according to surveillance footage.
“All of that happened while the children, the babies, were suffering from effects of fentanyl poisoning and in desperate need of help,” Williams said.
The daycare is located in the north Bronx, an area that is among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.
There were 786 fatal overdoses in the Bronx in 2021, according to data released by the city, higher than any other borough in New York City. About 78 per cent of overdose deaths in New York City involved fentanyl.