A Colombian veterinarian was sentenced to six years in a US prison after pleading guilty to importing heroin concealed in the stomachs of puppies – one of whom grew up to be a drug-sniffing dog.
Andres Lopez Elorez was sentenced for one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the US – a charge that does not even begin to describe the strangeness of his crime. Even the district attorney couldn’t resist cracking a joke.
“Every dog has its day and with today’s sentence, Elorez has been held responsible for this reprehensible use of his veterinary skills to conceal heroin inside puppies as part of a scheme to import dangerous drugs into the United States,” said Richard Donoghue, attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“Those were very difficult years,” Elorez said to Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr., pleading for leniency during the sentencing and attributing his disturbing actions to “a dark chapter in my life.”
While prosecutors alleged Elorez played an “active” role in the mutilation of the dogs, stitching bags of liquid heroin into their stomachs to avoid detection by US authorities, his lawyer claimed he was merely the “student” of the criminal mastermind who oversaw operations at the “drug-puppy farm” in Medellin, Colombia nearly 15 years ago. Judge Johnson apparently took pity on Elorez, handing down a lesser sentence.
Elorez pled guilty in September and initially faced ten years to life in prison. He is expected to be deported after completing his sentence. The rogue vet was finally extradited to the US from Spain in April, having been re-arrested in the town of Santa Comba in 2015 after giving Spanish authorities the slip and going on the run while they weighed the US extradition request against his exemplary record in Spain, where he had no drug record, a wife and kids, and where the two veterinary companies he’d worked for spoke highly of him.
Authorities found three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of liquid heroin surgically sewn into the stomachs of six puppies when they raided Elorez’s farm in Medellin in January 2005. Puppies weren’t the drug ring’s only smuggling methods, and 22 Colombian nationals were ultimately arrested in connection with that case, charged with importing over 18kg (40 pounds) of heroin into the US. Nine puppies were rescued from the farm, but three died of infections after authorities retrieved the drugs.
One Rottweiler grew up to be more than just a mule, however: ‘Heroina’ is now a drug-sniffing dog on the Colombian police force.
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