Bronx Day Care Center Exposed as Drug Den after Toddler’s Death

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A Bronx day care center where a 1-year-old boy died of a suspected opioid overdose last week was revealed to be a drug den by a neighbor who said it was an open secret in the area. The neighbor claimed that the owner of the center never had any children there until two months ago and that she did not even trust her own baby to stay there.

Neighbor: ‘How could you not know?’

The neighbor, a 69-year-old woman who lives next door to the Divino Nino Daycare, told The Post that the owner, Grei Mendez De Ventura, 36, put up a sign outside the basement space in the Kingsbridge building more than a year ago, but there were never any kids going in and out. “We all said, ‘Drugas.’ How could you not know?” the woman said. “It was a day care for a year with no children. For one year, she had a day care with no children but people go in. But no babies?”

The woman said that Ventura did not even take her own baby to the facility, which became licensed to operate as a day care in May. “Two months ago, she started getting some children. She got one baby two months ago, and then two more started weeks ago,” the woman said. “But she didn’t even take her own baby there. Not once.”

State Inspection Passed Days Before Tragedy

The day care center had just passed a surprise inspection by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) on Sept. 6, records show. No violations were issued during the site visit, according to the records.

Bronx Day Care Center Exposed as Drug Den

Divino Nino Daycare, although it was located in the Big Apple, is regulated by the state-run OCFS because it was licensed to operate with less than 12 children and was located inside a residence. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is in charge of day cares across the five boroughs that cater for more than 12 kids in a personal home or three or more children in a non-residence.

Toddler Dies from Fentanyl Exposure, Three Others Hospitalized

On Friday, Sept. 15, tragedy struck when four children at the center fell ill from fentanyl exposure, a powerful synthetic opioid that is often mixed with other drugs. One of them, Nicholas Feliz Dominici, who would have turned 2 in November, died at the hospital. The other three children — two 2-year-old boys and an 8-month-old girl — remain hospitalized in stable condition.

Police sources said that the children were exposed to fentanyl when it was cut in the day care center and some of it floated into the air, allowing them to inhale it. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and can cause respiratory failure and death even in small doses.

Day Care Owner and Accomplice Charged with Murder

Ventura and her alleged accomplice, Caristo Acevedo Brito, 41, who lived in the basement along with the drug operation, were arrested on Saturday and charged with murder, assault and child endangerment. Police have also launched a manhunt for Ventura’s husband, who lived with her next door and is believed to be “the main player” in the illicit drug business.

The parents of Nicholas, Zoila Dominici and Otoniel Feliz, said they were on a waitlist for their son to qualify for the center, which was recommended to them by Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. They said they had no idea that the place was a drug front and that they trusted Ventura with their son’s life.

Nicholas was the youngest of five children and was described by his mother as “so intelligent” and “full of love”. His family is now demanding justice for his death and answers from the authorities who failed to protect him.

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