NEW YORK (TCD) -- Four people are facing multiple federal charges for allegedly running a fentanyl mill out of a Bronx day care, which caused three children to be hospitalized and one to die due to exposure to the drug.
The four suspects reportedly left a kilogram of the drug on play mats inside the day care center. There were also "traps," or hidden compartments, in the floor containing the drugs, which were located in the same area where children played and slept.
Investigators also discovered a hydraulic press and two "kilo press" machines, which "are used by narcotics traffickers to exert pressure and compress illegal narcotics into kilogram-sized 'bricks' in preparation for distributing wholesale quantities of narcotics."
The criminal complaint says Mendez, who ran the day care center, called 911 Sept. 15 at approximately 2:40 p.m. to report the children were unresponsive. The victims range in age from 8 months to 2 years old. Medics arrived and transported three of the victims to the hospital, where a 1-year-old boy was pronounced deceased. The other two children received Narcan and were hospitalized.
The fourth victim’s mother reportedly picked them up about two hours before Mendez contacted 911 and noticed the child was "lethargic and not responsive." She took the 1-year-old to the hospital, where medical staff administered Narcan. That victim also needed to be hospitalized.
Prior to calling 911, Mendez reportedly called Herrera Garcia, her husband, twice. He didn’t answer the first time, but when she called him again, they spoke for about 10 seconds. Video footage reportedly shows Herrera Garcia walking to the day care and leaving a few minutes later with "what appears to be two shopping bags weighed with contents."
The complaint says Herrera Garcia left the building through the back and "traversed through overgrown grass and bushes to exit the area."
The two reportedly spoke on the phone again after Mendez called 911.
Herrera Garcia fled, but federal officials apprehended him in Mexico.
Paredes faces a charge of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death. Investigators searched his apartment and discovered multiple bags with items typically used for making and selling drugs, including a grinder, tape, digital scales, strainers, and plastic baggies with a "grayish power."
Paredes also reportedly had a stamp that matched kilo stamps found on envelopes at the day care. His criminal complaint says the kilo stamps are "stamps, stickers, or the like used by individuals who traffic and distribute narcotics to mark or brand the narcotics that they distribute."
Herrera Garcia, Mendez, and Brito are all charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute narcotics resulting in death.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
In a press conference, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said, "This case is different. We allege that the defendants poisoned four babies and killed one of them because they were running a drug operation from a day care center. A day care center. A place where children should be kept safe, not surrounded by a drug that can kill them in an instant."