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Two men charged with distributing illicit drugs in death of transgender activist

Two men were charged with distributing illicit drugs that caused the death of prominent transgender activist, author and actor Cecilia Gentili last month, the Department of Justice announced Monday.

Michael Kuilan, 44, and Antonio Venti, 52, were charged with distributing a fentanyl and heroin mixture to Gentili, 52, who died from an overdose on Feb. 6, the DOJ said in a joint statement with the New York City Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

“Today’s indictment delivers a strong message to anyone who profits from poisoning our communities with illicit drugs: There are dedicated investigators, across multiple agencies, working tirelessly to disrupt your shameful industry by pinpointing the source of these unlawful substances,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said in the statement. “It is imperative that we continue to hold distributors accountable for their callous actions.”

Text messages, cellphone location data and other evidence revealed that Venti, a resident of West Babylon, New York, sold the fentanyl and heroin mixture to Gentili on Feb. 5, and that Kuilan, a Brooklyn resident, supplied Venti with the drugs, authorities said. Police went to Gentili’s Brooklyn home on Feb. 6, following a 911 call from her partner, and found the longtime activist dead in her bedroom, authorities said. 

When law enforcement searched Kuilan’s Brooklyn apartment, the statement said, they found hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun and ammunition.

If found guilty, Kuilan and Venti could face life in prison.

“Drug poisonings take too many lives too soon from communities nationwide and DEA is committed to bringing to justice those responsible,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said in Monday’s statement. “Fentanyl is a deadly drug that dealers mix into their product and has accounted for 70% of drug related deaths nationwide.  The more people that know about the dangers of today’s drug landscape, the more lives can be saved.”

Gentili served as the managing director of policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, or GMHC — a decades-old nonprofit that aims to end the AIDS epidemic — from 2016 to 2019. In 2019, she founded Trans Equity Consulting, an organization centered on building LGBTQ diversity initiatives in the workplace. 

The activist also appeared as a recurring character on FX’s hit show “Pose,” about New York City’s underground LGBTQ ballroom scene, which ran from 2018 to 2021. She published an award-winning 2022 memoir, “Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist,” which focused on her sexual trauma and gender identity.

Her death in February prompted an outpouring of support from New York’s LGBTQ activist community and elicited kind words of remembrance from some prominent figures, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

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