Bronx day care where 1-year-old died of opioid OD was obvious drug front, says neighbor: ‘How could you not know’

It was an open secret that the Bronx day care center where a tot died from fentanyl exposure was operating as a drug front, a neighbor told The Post on Monday — raising crucial questions about how the site managed to pass a city inspection just days before.

Divino Nino Daycare owner Grei Mendez De Ventura, 36, put a business sign outside the basement space in the Kingsbridge building touting the day care site more than a year ago — yet there were never any kids going in and out, claimed a woman who lives next door.

“We all said, ‘Drogas.’ How could you not know?” said the longtime resident, 69, who declined to give her name. “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?

“A day care with no children and men coming in and out. Yes, we knew something. We knew something, something was not good happening there,” the woman said.

The neighbor claimed Ventura wouldn’t even allow her own child to go into the tiny facility, which became licensed to legally operate as a day care in May — four months before a 1-year-old boy died and at least three other children were sickened there Friday.

“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.”

Ventura as well as Carlisto?Acevedo Brito, 41, who lived in the?basement?alongside?the?day care?business,?were?both slapped with murder,?assault and child endangerment?charges over the weekend after the?death of the little boy, Nicholas Feliz Dominici.

Cops outside Divino Nino Daycare
First reponders swarm Divino Nino Daycare in the Bronx after a 1-year-old died from possible fentanyl exposure there.
Christopher Sadowski

Cops have since launched a manhunt for Ventura’s husband, who lived with her next-door and is believed to have been “the main player” in the illicit drug business, law-enforcement sources said.

The day care center had just passed a surprise inspection — apparently with flying colors — by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Sept. 6, records show.

No violations were issued during the site visit, according to the records.

One of the arrested suspects was living in a room in the day-care center at the time of Friday’s bust — but his presence at the property appears to have gone unnoticed by inspectors.

Nicholas Feliz Dominici
Nicholas Feliz Dominici died from suspected fentanyl poisoning while at day care in the Bronx last week.
Yeissy Dominici/Facebook
The day-care center had just passed a surprise inspection on September 6th.
The day care center had just passed a surprise inspection on September 6th.

When cops raided the place Friday, they found a kilo of fentanyl under mats the kiddies slept on, as well as several kilo presses — devices typically used to combine the drug with either cocaine or heroin — inside the day care.

Divino Nino Daycare, although it was located in the Big Apple, is technically regulated by the state-run Office of Children and Family Services because it was licensed to operate with less than 12 children and was located inside a residence.

The city DOH 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.

Divino Nino Daycare was registered to cater to eight children, between 6 weeks to 12 years old, the records show.

Grei Mendez De Ventura
Divino Nino Daycare owner Grei Mendez De Ventura, 36, is charged with murder, assault and child endangerment. 

But the state told The Post on Monday that it has been contracting out its Big Apple inspections to the city DOH for the past decade, shelling out millions of dollars a year to do so. For example, this year, the state paid the city $17 million to inspect day cares in the five boroughs that fall under New York’s purview.

Mayor Eric Adams bristled Monday at suggestions that city inspectors somehow fell down on the job. 

He told reporters at a press conference that the site had been inspected twice before the September visit and it “did not fall through the cracks.

Carlisto Acevedo Brito
Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, who lived in the basement alongside the day care business, was also charged.

“The team did their job,” he said — noting that required background checks were also done on the day care owners and came back clean. 

“We did everything we were supposed to do, ” Adams insisted. “They did not walk in, say, ‘Here’s a drug lab, let me walk past it.’

“Who did not do their job were the people who were there to protect the children,” the mayor said. “That is what was the most frightening aspect of this, because everything appeared normal based on the standards we put in place to make sure … part of this relationship is based on trust, and they broke that trust.” 

City Hall explained that as the day care owner, Ventura was required by law to inform officials exactly who was living at the facility so background checks could be carried out.

Because she did not do so, the drug operation was able to skirt background checks.

Only one surprise inspection is required per year, according to officials.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said Monday she has ordered the OCFS to probe “this horrific incident.”

A glimpse through the window of the day-care center where a tot died of a suspected overdose.
A glimpse through the window of the day care center where a tot died of a suspected overdose.
Christopher Sadowski

“Governor Hochul is committed to protecting the health and safety of all New Yorkers — especially children — and is heartbroken by this horrific tragedy,” spokesman Avi Small said in a statement. “The Governor has directed OCFS to fully cooperate with the ongoing law enforcement investigation and conduct their own internal investigation into this matter. The safety of our kids is non-negotiable.”

The kiddies were apparently exposed when the drug was cut in the day care center and some of it floated into the air, allowing them to inhale it, sources said.

Cops had responded to a 911 call from the child care center shortly after 3:30 p.m. Friday and found three of the children unresponsive.

Dominici was rushed to Montefiore Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The two other children and a third also taken to the hospital by his mother remain hospitalized after being exposed to the deadly drug, police said. The three kids are two 2-year-old boys and the 8-month-old sister of one of them.

At least some of the kids were administered Narcan at the scene. 

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