Two Men Have Been Charged in the Death of Trans Artist and Advocate Cecilia Gentili

Federal prosecutors have brought an array of charges against two men accused of distributing fentanyl-laced heroin to Cecilia Gentili, the legendary transgender activist who died in early February at age 52.

In a Monday press release, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced the unsealing of a four-page indictment of Michael Kuilan, 44, and Antonio Venti, 52, sharing that the men were in custody and due to be arraigned in 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,” the release noted. “Today, the alleged perpetrators who sold the deadly dose of drugs to Gentili have been arrested.”

“Fentanyl is a public health crisis,” the release continues. “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 press release effectively makes public Gentili’s cause of death, which was previously known only to the organizer’s friends and family. Her passing was announced on February 6 via an Instagram post asking for “privacy, time, and space to grieve.”

An influential figure in New York City activist circles and beyond, Gentili was previously the policy director for the AIDS service organization GMHC (formerly Gay Men’s Health Crisis) and the founder of the firm Trans Equity Consulting. She was also an accomplished artist, starring on Pose from 2018 to 2021, releasing her memoir Faltas in 2022, and performing one-woman stage shows like The Knife Cuts Both Ways and Red Ink.

Her funeral, held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on February 15, reflected the scope of her legacy, drawing 1,400 attendees and stoking controversy within the New York archdiocese. Her loss has been deeply felt within the broader LGBTQ+ community, who continue to pour out tributes to her indomitable spirit and storied career.

The court documents made public today reveal that Gentili was found dead in her bedroom after a 911 call from her partner, with investigators subsequently determining that she died from the “combined effect of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine, and cocaine,” as the DEA release notes.

Law enforcement officials say they located Venti through text messages and cellular data, alleging that he sold the fentanyl-laced heroin to Gentili the day before her death, and that Kuilan had supplied Venti with the drugs. The two men face life in prison if convicted.

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