Colombia vet who smuggled heroin to U.S. in puppies sent to prison

Drug Enforcement Administration photo shows puppies as DEA announces an indictment charging Andres Lopez Elorez with conspiring to import and distribute heroin into the U.S. by surgically implanting these puppies with liquid heroin 12 years ago, in this image released in New York, U.S., on May 1, 2018. DEA/Handout via REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Colombian veterinarian who surgically implanted liquid heroin inside live puppies to smuggle the drug into the United States was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday.

Andres Lopez Elorez, 39, admitted conspiring to import heroin and will be deported to Colombia after his sentence, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York.

“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,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

According to prosecutors, between 2004 and 2005 Elorez leased a farm in Medellin, Colombia, where he reared dogs and sewed bags of liquid heroin into nine puppies for importation to the United States.

During a search of the farm in 2005, foreign law enforcement agents seized 17 bags of liquid heroin weighing nearly three kilograms (6.6 lb), including 10 bags extracted from the puppies. Three puppies died after contracting a virus following the surgeries, U.S. prosecutors said.

Elorez was a fugitive before being arrested in Spain in 2015. He was extradited to the United States in May 2018 and pleaded guilty in September last year.

(This story corrects the first name of Andres Lopez Elorez in paragraph two)

Reporting by Jackie Botts; editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler