2 Men Charged After Feb. Death of Transgender Activist and “Pose” Actress Cecilia Gentili

Cecilia Gentili was a transgender activist who also appeared in the FX series 'Pose'

<p>John Nacion/Getty</p> Cecilia Gentili

John Nacion/Getty

Cecilia Gentili

A New York grand jury has indicted two men on felony charges of distributing fentanyl-laced heroin that allegedly resulted in the death of Cecilia Gentili, a transgender activist who also appeared in the FX series Pose, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Michael Kuilan, 44, and Antonio Venti, 52, were charged with three felony offenses related to the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, according to the indictment reviewed by PEOPLE. Kuilan also faces a charge of unlawful gun possession.

While the suspects were expected to be arraigned Monday, it’s unclear if they have entered pleas. If found guilty, prosecutors said they face up to life in prison.

“Cecilia Gentili, a prominent activist and leader of the New York transgender community was tragically poisoned in her Brooklyn home from fentanyl-laced heroin,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of N.Y., said in a press release shared Monday.

Related: Cecilia Gentili, Trans Activist and Pose Actress, Dies at 52: 'Rest in Power and Accomplishment'

“Today, the alleged perpetrators who sold the deadly dose of drugs to Gentili have been arrested,” he added. “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.”

Authorities said in the release that text messages, cell phone data, and other evidence allegedly led investigators to believe that Venti sold the fentanyl-laced heroin to Gentili, 52, on Feb. 5 and Kuilan allegedly supplied Venti the drugs.

On Feb. 6, NYPD officers responded to Gentili’s Brooklyn, N.Y., home after her partner called 911, according to authorities. There, officers found her dead in her bedroom.

<p>Cindy Ord/Getty</p> Cecilia Gentili in April 2022.

Cindy Ord/Getty

Cecilia Gentili in April 2022.

“Gentili died due to the combined effect of fentanyl, heroin, xylazine, and cocaine,” the release states.

Authorities also said they searched a residence in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood that they claimed belonged to Kuilan and allegedly discovered “hundreds of baggies of fentanyl, a handgun, and ammunition.”

Venti’s attorney, Joseph Turco, told CNN, “We’re sorry for Cecilia’s death,” and referred to it as “an accident.” Kuilan’s attorney, Howard Greenberg, said in an interview with CNN that his client does not know Gentili and “has nothing to do with this.”

Gentili’s death was announced on Feb. 6 in a statement shared on her Instagram page. “Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” the post says before asking the public “for privacy, time, and space to grieve.”

The LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD also confirmed Gentili’s death in a separate statement, describing her as “a pillar in the trans community.”

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“Cecilia just celebrated her 52nd birthday, surrounded by friends, loved ones, and community,” the agency said at the time.

Gentili, who was born in Argentina, first came out as transgender in 1984 and received asylum in the U.S. in 2012, according to Playbill.

In Pose, Gentili played Miss Orlando, a New York City woman who offers discounted cosmetic surgery. She was introduced in the first season, which premiered in 2018. Set in the 1980s and later the 1990s, the series followed members of the LGBTQ+ ballroom culture in New York City amid the rising HIV/AIDS epidemic.

<p>Macall Polay/FX/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Angelica Ross as Candy (left), Dominique Jackson as Elektra (middle) and Cecilia Gentili as Miss Orlando in the FX series "Pose."

Macall Polay/FX/Kobal/Shutterstock

Angelica Ross as Candy (left), Dominique Jackson as Elektra (middle) and Cecilia Gentili as Miss Orlando in the FX series "Pose."

According to GLAAD, Gentili was a founding member of Decrim NY, “a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of sex workers.”

Related: 'Pose' Series Finale: Cast and Fans React to Beloved FX Series Ending: 'Legacy, Longevity and Life'

In 2021, Gentili helped found Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network, a free healthcare program for sex workers, according to a release from the organization. She also worked with The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center and the APICHA (Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS) Community Health Center in N.Y., according to GLAAD.

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