June 25, 2024

New York City police find the narcotics a week after four toddlers were treated for opioid poisoning, including one who died.

The owners of a New York City daycare centre where a toddler died and three others were sickened by opioid exposure last week were hiding bags of fentanyl beneath a trap door in the children’s play area, police say.

New York City detectives were executing a search warrant on the Bronx apartment on Thursday when they found the narcotics, including a large quantity of fentanyl and other paraphernalia concealed by plywood and tile flooring. Photos shared by police showed bags full of powder inside the “trap floor” a few steps away from a shelf of children’s toys.

The grim discovery came nearly a week after four children at the daycare in the Bronx apartment were treated for opioid poisoning. One of the victims, 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici, is believed to have died from the exposure.

The daycare centre operator, Grei Mendez, and a tenant of the building, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, were charged with murder of “depraved indifference” in Dominici’s death. Authorities are still seeking a third individual, Mendez’s husband and a cousin of Brito.

Prior to finding the drugs beneath the trap door, police had already announced the discovery of a kilogramme (2.2lb) of fentanyl that was stored near mats that children used for sleeping along with multiple devices used by traffickers for mixing drugs and pressing it into bricks.

Federal prosecutors said Mendez, 36, took steps to cover up the drug operation on September 15 shortly after realizing that some of the children in her care were not waking up from their naps.

Before alerting first responders, she called her husband, authorities said. He was seen on surveillance footage entering the building moments later, then leaving through a back alley with multiple shopping bags.

“All of that happened while the children, the babies, were suffering from effects of fentanyl poisoning and in desperate need of help,” Manhattan US Attorney Damien Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday.

During a federal court appearance in Manhattan, a lawyer for Mendez said she had no knowledge of the drug operation while suggesting her husband was responsible for the narcotics. Brito, 41, did not speak during his court appearance.

Both face up to life in prison if convicted on federal charges of possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death and one count of conspiracy. They were also charged in state court with murder, manslaughter and assault.

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