2 men charged with providing fentanyl-laced heroin that killed a prominent NYC transgender activist

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities charged two men with providing the fentanyl-laced heroin that killed prominent New York city transgender activist Cecilia Gentili in February, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Text messages, cell site data, and other evidence showed that 52-year-old Antonio Venti of Long Island sold Gentili drugs on Feb. 5, and Brooklyn resident, Michael Kuilan, 44, supplied Venti with the deadly narcotics, federal prosecutors said.

Law enforcement officials searching Kuilan’s home also found hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun and ammunition, according to Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The two men pleaded not guilty to the charges in Brooklyn federal court on Monday and were released on bail pending their next court date on April 22, according to Peace’s office.

Venti’s lawyer didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, but Kuilan’s lawyer Howard Greenberg dismissed the allegations, stressing that his client didn’t know Gentili and didn’t directly provide her the drugs.

Gentili was a former sex worker who became a leading advocate for other transgender people, as well as sex workers and people with HIV. She also acted in the FX television series “Pose,” about the underground ballroom dance scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

Her well-attended funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan drew outrage in the Catholic community, including from the venerable church’s own pastor.

Gentili was found dead in her bedroom on Feb. 6. Prosecutors say the 52-year-old Brooklyn resident’s death was due to the combined effect of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine and cocaine.

Fentanyl, which is typically mixed with other drugs, has accounted for roughly 70% of drug related deaths nationwide, according to Frank Tarentino, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office.

“Today’s indictment delivers a strong message to anyone who profits from poisoning our communities with illicit drugs,” New York City Police Commissioner Edward Caban said in a statement.

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