Colombian vet ‘surgically implanted heroin’ into puppies to turn them into drug mules'
Andres Lopez Elores was on the run for 10 years before being caught in Spain
A Colombian vet who allegedly performed surgery on puppies to use them as drug mules, has been extradited to the US after more than 10 years on the run.
Andres Lopez Elores is accused of “surgically implanting” capsules of liquid heroin into the dogs’ abdomens in his homeland before sending them to America.
US prosecutors say he sewed the packets of heroin, with a street value of $2m into the abdomens of six puppies. When the dogs arrived in the US the packages were surgically removed.
The plot was uncovered in 2005 by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) team in New York and one of its task forces in Colombia.
During a 2005 raid on a clinic Elores ran in Medillin, Colombian authorities found 6.6 pounds of heroin surgically implanted in six puppies.
At least three of the dogs died as a result of the smuggling operation, the DEA said. However, two were adopted, including one that became a drug-sniffing dog for Colombian police.
While 22 Colombian nationals were arrested in the case, Mr Lopez Elores managed to evade capture and go into hiding.
He was eventually caught in 2015, living in the town of Santa Comba in northwestern Spain. Authorities believe he may have been in the country for as long as eight years.
After Spain's National Court authorised his extradition, he was transferred to the US this week, where he will be tried for conspiring to import and distribute heroin into the US.
“Twelve years ago, our investigation unmasked drug traffickers’ inhumane callousness,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt.
“Over time, drug organisations’ unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment, or nowadays pushing lethal amounts of fentanyl onto our streets. This week, the veterinarian allegedly responsible has been brought to New York to face the charges against him."
US Attorney Richard P Donoghue added: “Elorez 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. Dogs are mans’ best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy.”
If convicted, Elores could face between 10 years and life in prison.