Metro Weekly

Two Men Charged in Connection with Cecilia Gentili’s Death

Antonio Venti and Michael Kuilan were charged with distributing drugs that led to the death of transgender activist Cecilia Gentili.

Cecilia Gentili – Photo: Instagram

Two New York men have been charged with drug possession and distribution in connection with the death of Cecilia Gentili, a prominent New York-based transgender activist. 

The arrest was announced in an April 1 news release from the office of Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

“Cecilia Gentili, a prominent activist and leader of the New York transgender community, was tragically poisoned in her Brooklyn home from fentanyl-laced heroin,” 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.”

The suspects, Michael Kuilan, 44, of Brooklyn, and Antonio Venti, 52, of West Babylon, N.Y., each face three felony charges related to the distribution and possession of fentanyl and heroin in connection with Gentili’s death. Kuilan has also been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to prosecutors, Gentili left her home in Brooklyn for a few hours on the evening of February 5, 2024. She returned home that night and laid down after telling her partner, Peter Scotto, she wasn’t feeling well. The next morning, when Scotto tried to wake her, she was unresponsive. 

Scotto called 911, and New York Police Department officers were dispatched to the scene, finding the transgender activist dead in her bedroom.

Prosecutors say medical examiners determined that Gentili died from “acute intoxication caused by the combined effects of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine, and cocaine,” and that there were “lethal concentrations of fentanyl and heroin” in Gentili’s blood.

According to court documents, police used text messages and cell site data to track Gentili’s whereabouts on the night before she died. Prosecutors claim that Venti allegedly sold the fentanyl-laced heroin to Gentili, while Kuilan allegedly supplied the lethal drugs to Venti. 

A subsequent search of Kuilan’s apartment uncovered hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun, and ammunition, leading to the weapons charge against him. 

Both men could face up to life in prison. 

Venti’s attorney, Joseph Turco, referred to Gentili’s death as an “accident.”

“We’re sorry for Cecilia’s death,” Turco said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go to the activist’s family. The situation is a big problem in America, no question about that.”

Howard Greenberg, the attorney representing Kuilan, said his client never knew Gentili.

“Michael Kuilan does not know this person who passed in any way, shape, manner, or form,” Greenberg told CNN in a phone call. “Bottom line, my client, Michael Kuilan, has nothing to do with this.”

Both men, who have been released on bond, are scheduled to appear in court on April 22. 

Gentili, an immigrant from Argentina, was a much-beloved figure within the New York LGBTQ community. She was known as a passionate advocate for transgender equality, immigrant rights, sex worker rights, and people living with HIV.

Her funeral, which was attended by celebrities and prominent transgender activists, was held at Manhattan’s iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, sparking outrage among conservative Catholics and anti-trans activists. They took issue with the boisterous and raucous atmosphere of the service, the gaudy outfits worn by mourners, and several eulogies that were viewed as irreverent and foul-mouthed.

The New York Archdiocese condemned the funeral and what it called the “scandalous behavior” of attendees. He claimed not to have known that Gentili was transgender and accused funeral organizers of misrepresenting the funeral and deceiving St. Patrick’s.

Catholic Church officials later held a Mass of Reparation, a specific liturgical celebration conducted to make amends with God and “purify” the church following actions considered to have defiled a holy space

Gentili’s friends and family denounced the Archdiocese’s criticism, arguing that the church is supposed to be welcoming.

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements — of sex worker, immigration, trans, and affirming health care movements,” said Oscar Diaz, director of communications at Trans Equity Consulting, an organization founded by Gentili, in a statement.

“Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

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