MANHATTAN (CN) — A third suspect has been arrested and charged in a drug operation that led to the death of a 1-year-old boy at a New York City day care center.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday, Renny Antonio Parra Paredes, 38, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death. He was arrested Saturday and appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, where he was ordered held without bail.
Paredes is the third person charged for the operation after four children, between the ages of 8 months and 2 years, were poisoned on Sept. 15 at the Divino Niño day care center in the Bronx. One victim, 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici, died that day after being exposed to fentanyl.
The other three victims were hospitalized and treated with Narcan, according to police.
“I promised last week that we would continue to work to bring those involved in the child poisonings at Divino Niño day care to justice,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams. “Since then, this office and our law enforcement partners have worked around the clock to identify and apprehend additional individuals who are responsible. Today’s arrest is one more step toward obtaining justice for the child-victims of this heinous offense and their families.”
Investigators found a kilo of fentanyl stored on top of children’s playmats at the day care center, as well as more suspected narcotics in hidden floor traps, prosecutors say in the indictment. They also seized paraphernalia like presses, stamps, grinders and scales, which officials said are often used in narcotics distribution.
Paredes was believed to have an “instrumental role” in the suspected drug trafficking ring, according to DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III.
“The alleged drugs and materials seized in the trap are indicative of a prolific drug packaging operation,” Tarentino said. “Traffickers often hide contraband in inconspicuous or unsuspecting locations with no regard for the safety of others. In this case, the day care’s floorboards were used as concealment, putting children’s lives at risk who innocently sat on the floor to play.”
Cellphone data showed that Paredes made daily trips to the day care center prior to the Sept. 15 poisoning, the complaint said. But after the incident, investigators said he didn’t return once in a likely effort to “evade law enforcement detection.”
According to the indictment, Paredes repeatedly lied to law enforcement about his whereabouts after his Saturday arrest, downplaying how often he visited the day care center.
Investigators say he told them he was staying in a hotel earlier that day. In reality, he was staying in an apartment with his aunt, where officials later found more drugmaking supplies, according to the indictment.
“The truly disgraceful allegations in this case continue to shock the senses,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “This latest charge proves that our determination to eradicate the threat of illicit fentanyl and save lives cannot — and will not — stop.”
Last week, two other suspects believed to be Paredes’ co-conspirators were arrested. Day care owner Grei Mendez, 36, and her tenant Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, face charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics resulting in death and narcotics distribution resulting in death.
When announcing the charges on Sept. 19, Williams called Mendez’s “disregard” for the children “simply staggering.”
“Parents entrusted Grei Mendez with the care of their children,” Williams said. “As alleged, instead of diligently safeguarding the well-being of those children, she and her co-conspirators put them directly in harm’s way, running a narcotics operation and storing deadly fentanyl out of the very space in which the children ate, slept, and played.”
Mendez and Brito have also been charged by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office with murder, manslaughter and assault. So far, Paredes has only been charged federally.
Authorities are still searching for Mendez’s husband, who was seen via security footage carrying plastic bags fleeing the day care center before law enforcement arrived, according to the indictment.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has since called for swift, national action to combat the opioid epidemic.
“There needs to be a full national assault on this drug entering our city,” he said of fentanyl last week.
If found guilty, Paredes, Mendez and Brito face maximum sentences of life in prison.Follow @Uebey
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