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Two Men Charged in Death of New York Transgender Activist

Cecelia Gentili’s funeral was covertly held at Saint Patrick Cathedral to the shock of the Catholic community

Two Men Charged in Death of New York Transgender Activist

New York law enforcement has charged two men in connection to the death of a transgender activist whose funeral sparked outrage earlier this year.

Cecilia Gentili was a native of Argentina and a biological male who identified as a transgender woman. Gentili was an outspoken advocate for transgenderism and sex work and appeared in the FX show Pose. Gentili died of a drug overdose on Feb. 6 after using heroin that federal prosecutors now say was laced with fentanyl.

Other activists held Gentili’s funeral at Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York City after concealing the 52-year-old’s gender identity to the cathedral’s staff.

Breon Peace, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced on April 1 that two men who allegedly sold the drugs to Gentili have been charged. 

Antonio Venti, 52, of Long Island is accused of selling the fatal drugs to Gentili on Feb. 5. Michael Kuilan, 44, of Brooklyn allegedly supplied the drugs to Venti. Prosecutors cited cell site data and text messages when linking the two men to the activist’s death.

In a press release, Peace said Gentili “was tragically poisoned in her Brooklyn home from fentanyl-laced heroin” and called fentanyl “a public health crisis.”

“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,” added New York Police Department Commissioner Edward A Caban.

“These arrests result in the charges brought against the defendants for causing the death of transgender rights activist Cecilia Gentile. … Fentanyl is a deadly drug that dealers mix into their product and has accounted for 70% of drug related deaths nationwide,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “The death of Ms. Gentile is a reminder of the dangers that illicit drugs have on all communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.” 

Gentili’s cause of death was determined to be a fatal combination of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine, and cocaine.

Clips of Gentili’s funeral went viral and outraged conservative and religious communities.

In one clip, a transgender-identifying person described the intentional plot to deceive the Catholic cathedral. In another, two people delivering the eulogy from the pulpit referred to Gentili as “Saint Cecelia” and called the deceased a “great whore” and the "mother of all whores” in Spanish and English as the crowd in the cathedral cheered.

Reverend Enrique Salvo, the pastor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, condemned the deception in a statement on Feb. 17 and thanked people who had expressed support and shared outrage.

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse,” he added. “That it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual forty-day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us.”

The church held a Mass of Reparation in the wake of the scandal.

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