A veterinarian pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he surgically implanted packs of liquid heroin inside the bellies of puppies on behalf of a Colombian trafficking organization.
Andres Lopez Elorza, 38, was extradited from Spain after being arrested there in 2015 for allegedly hiding heroin in the bellies puppies traveling on commercial flights to New York where the drugs were cut out of them. Investigators believe the puppies would have died in the process.
“Elorza is not only a drug trafficker, he also betrayed a veterinarian’s pledge to prevent animal suffering when he used his surgical skills in a cruel scheme to smuggle heroin in the abdomens of puppies,” said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement. “Dogs are man’s best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy.”
Prosecutors said Lopez Elorza, who also goes by Lopez Elorez, was part of a Colombia-based conspiracy to smuggle heroin into the U.S. via human and animal couriers.
“Over time, drug organizations’ unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment,” James J. Hunt, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office, said.
Ten puppies were found during a 2005 raid on a farm in Colombia, DEA officials said. Five ended up running away, three died from infection and two were adopted, including one that became a drug-sniffing dog for Colombian police, officials said.
Lopez Elorza was born in Colombia but claims Venezuelan citizenship, authorities said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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Veterinarian pleads not guilty to stitching heroin in puppies’ bellies for cartel
One rescued puppy in the smuggling operation grew up to become a drug-sniffing police dog.
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