Vet sentenced for performing surgery on puppies to smuggle heroin

/ CBS News

A Colombian veterinarian who surgically implanted packets of liquid heroin into puppies' abdomens and planned to smuggle them into the United States has been sentenced to six years in prison. Andres Lopez Elorez, 38, was initially indicted in November 2005 for his alleged role in a heroin trafficking operation, but was on the run until he was captured in Spain and extradited to the United States in April. In September, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into the U.S., according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Federal prosecutors say Elorez and others working with him in Colombia smuggled heroin into the U.S. using a variety of methods to conceal the drugs from officials.

Between September 2004 and January 2005, prosecutors say Elorez leased a farm in Medellin, Colombia, where he secretly raised dogs and surgically implanted bags of liquid heroin into nine puppies, planning to import them to the U.S. Law enforcement searched the farm on Jan. 1, 2005 and uncovered 17 bags of liquid heroin, including 10 that were surgically removed from the puppies.

Puppies found after DEA agents arrested 21 people in Colombia charged with smuggling heroin into the United States, the agency announced Feb. 1, 2006. The agents found dogs with surgically-implanted liquid heroin packets inside them. Drug Enforcement Agency

Three of the puppies died after contracting viruses following the surgeries, prosecutors say.

Elorez was arrested in 2015 in Spain's northwestern town of Santa Comba where he had been hiding after the country's National Court authorized his extradition. Officials said he had lived in the country for eight years before his arrest.

"Every dog has its day, and with today's sentence, Elorez has been held responsible for the reprehensible use of his veterinary skills to conceal heroin inside puppies as part of a scheme to import dangerous narcotics into the United States," U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement.

In a statement released after Elorez' arrest, Donoghue said Elorez "betrayed a veterinarian's pledge to prevent animal suffering."

He is expected to be deported upon completion of his sentence.

First published on February 7, 2019

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