2 men charged with dealing drugs that killed NY advocate for trans and sex worker rights

Two men were charged Monday with distributing the drugs that killed trans rights advocate Cecilia Gentili in February, federal prosecutors said.

According to the indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court, Michael Kuilan, 44, is accused of supplying Antonio Venti, 52, with the lethal fentanyl-laced heroin that he allegedly sold to Gentili. Both are charged with distributing the heroin and fentanyl, and Kuilan is also charged with unlawful gun possession, according to prosecutors.

“Cecilia Gentili, a prominent activist and leader of the New York transgender community was tragically poisoned in her Brooklyn home from fentanyl-laced heroin,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “Fentanyl is a public health crisis. Our Office will spare no effort in the pursuit of justice for the many New Yorkers who have lost loved ones due to this lethal drug.”

Both men pleaded not guilty in court on Monday and were released on bail, officials said. They were due back in court on April 22, according to prosecutors.

NYPD officers found Gentili dead on Feb. 6 after a 911 call from her partner, according to court documents. She died due to the combined effects of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine and cocaine, prosecutors said. According to the indictment, Venti had sold her the drugs the day before.

Joseph Turco, an attorney representing Venti, said his client knew Gentili personally for many years and Venti was himself a drug user.

“We mourn her loss, and we won’t forget her,” Turco said when asked for comment on his client’s behalf. “He can’t comment except to say he misses her, and he’s sorry that we’ve lost her and that he is praying for her family.”

Law enforcement searched Kuilan’s apartment in Williamsburg and found hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun and ammunition, authorities said. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Born in Argentina, Gentili was an actor and activist well-known for her work in New York’s public health community. She worked to improve access to services for trans people and sex workers, and helped to launch the movement to decriminalize sex work in New York.

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