A vet from Colombia has been charged in Brooklyn for illegally smuggling narcotics into the US by surgically implanting packets of liquid heroin into the bellies of puppies.
Andres Lopez Elorez was formally accused of an indictment of conspiring to import and distribute heroin into the US 12 years ago by a federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The 38 year old pleaded not guilty, according to news reports in the US.
Prosecutors said if found guilty, Elorez faces up to life imprisonment.
In a statement, Richard Donoghue a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said “dogs are man’s best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy.”
The puppies, mostly purebred dogs, had their bellies cut open and the drug stiched in. They were then exported to the US.
“He 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,” Donoghue said.
The smugglers hoped the dogs pedigrees would help make them avoid suspicion on their path through customs, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
A raid in Colombia in 2005 found 10 dogs who were rescued, were used as drug couriers, but many of the puppies died in the operation.
Elorez was arrested in Spain and extraditied to the United States.