Prosecutors detail vet’s ‘cruel’ surgery to turn puppies into drug mules
He’s one sick puppy.
A Colombian drug trafficker who twisted his skills as a veterinarian to turn innocent pooches into veritable drug mules was hauled into federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday — where prosecutors revealed how he cruelly sewed heroin into the stomachs of live Labrador pups.
A startled Andres Lopez Elorez, 38, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to import and distribute heroin, a day after he was extradited to the US from Spain.
“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,” US Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement after the brief court appearance.
“Dogs are mans’ best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy.”
Back in 2004 and 2005, Elorez was part of a twisted trafficking ring that implanted packets of liquid heroin into the bellies of Labs and other breeds and then sent them on commercial flights to the Big Apple, authorities say.
Once the pooches arrived, the packets were surgically removed from the unwitting canine couriers — who died in the process, authorities say.
“Over time, drug organizations’ unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt.
Ten puppies — six with a total of 6.6 pounds of dope stuffed inside them — were rescued during a 2005 raid on a farm in Colombia, the DEA said at the time.
Three of the rescue dogs later died of infections.
Raids in Colombia, New York, Florida and North Carolina at the time resulted in more than 30 arrests and the suiezure of more than 50 pounds of heroin.
But Elorez evaded capture, and spent the next decade on the lam.
He was finally busted in Spain in 2015 and had been fighting extradition in the European Court of Human Rights ever since.
Elorez’s public defender on Tuesday said he has “psychiatric issues,” including depression, and “kidney problems.”
A visibly upset Elorez gestured wildly with his hands to his interpreter.
“He says he needs surgery and has problems with his urethra,” his attorney Mitchell Dinnerstein said. “I think a lot of it is stress related.”
He also has “a loving wife and two children” — and isn’t actually a vet,the attorney later claimed.
“He is not a trained vet,” Dinnerstein told The Post.
Elorez was held without bail.
A status conference will be held on June 5, where both parties say they will explore a plea as a potential resolution.
If convicted, Elorez faces at least 10 years and as much as life behind bars.
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