Veterinarian charged with smuggling heroin packets stitched inside the bellies of puppies
The US Drug Enforcement Administration said that the puppies were then exported to the United States with the smugglers hoping the dogs' pedigrees would help them clear Customs.
A veterinarian on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges that he attempted to smuggle drugs using puppies' bellies for a Colombian trafficking ring by stitching packets of liquid heroin inside the canines. The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said that the vet, Andred Lopez Elroza, was arraigned in a federal court on Tuesday on an indictment for conspiring to import and distribute heroin in the United States.
The 38-year-old reportedly became a fugitive in 2005 when authorities arrested nearly two dozen suspected traffickers in Colombia, according to reports.
The assistant US Attorney Nathan Reilly, while addressing a magistrate judge, said that the puppies' (which included mostly purebred dogs like Labrador retrievers) bellies were cut open and heroin packets were surgically implanted inside of them.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration said that the puppies were then exported to the United States with the smugglers hoping the dogs' pedigrees would help clear their path through customs, according to ABC reports.
The authorities believe that the dogs were sent on commercial flights to New York City, where their bellies were opened again to take the drugs out. Investigators also suspect that many puppies may have died in the process. However, it is not yet known how many canines were involved in this drug-smuggling scheme.
The head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, James J Hunt, in a statement said: "Over time, drug organizations' unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment."
While the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, said: "Dogs are man's best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers' worst enemy."
The DEA officials said that at least 10 puppies were found during a 2005 raid on a farm in Colombia.
The officials added that out of the 10 dogs, five ended up running away, three died from infection and two were adopted. One of the adopted dogs eventually became a drug-sniffer for Colombia police.