What to Know
- A Venezuelan veterinarian arrested by U.S. Marshals in Spain in 2015 has been extradited to face federal charges in a puppy drug smuggling
- Andres Lopez Elorza was arrested in Madrid in 2015 after more than a decade of investigation by federal and Colombian officials
- During a 2005 raid on a clinic he ran in Medillin, Colombian authorities found 6.6 pounds of heroin surgically implanted in six puppies
A Venezuelan veterinarian arrested by U.S. Marshals in Spain more than two years ago for allegedly stuffing liquid heroin into the bellies of puppies to smuggle drugs into America was extradited to New York City Monday ahead of a Tuesday federal court appearance in Brooklyn.
Marshals escorted the vet, Andres Lopez Elorza, to a waiting black car after he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday afternoon. He wore a green jacket with the hood up and held a blue sweater to conceal the handcuffs on his wrist. The extradition caps a longstanding effort to bring Lopez Elorza to the U.S.; he was arrested in Madrid in 2015 after more than a decade of investigation by federal and Colombian officials.
A Drug Enforcement Administration team in New York had been working with the DEA task force in Colombia when they got a tip about a vet shuttling drugs through dogs. During a 2005 raid on a clinic Lopez Elorza ran in Medillin, Colombian authorities found 6.6 pounds of heroin surgically implanted in six puppies.
"Traffickers will go to great lengths. These guys are evil geniuses in ways to think and hide the drugs, secret them," said DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt. "This case was exceptionally heinous."
A statement at the time indicated the vet and others used the dogs to send the drugs from Colombia to the United States. Twenty-two Colombian nationals were arrested in the case in 2006 and charged with smuggling more than 40 pounds of heroin into the United States.
The group, whose distribution network stretched from New York City to Miami, used multiple methods, the puppies just being one of them. Several dogs died. One of the puppies was saved and later became a drug dog for Colombian police. Lopez Elorza went into hiding after the raid.
A Civil Guard spokeswoman told the Associated Press at the time of the vet's 2015 arrest that the then-33-year-old Lopez Elorza was busted in the northwestern town of Santa Comba where he had been hiding after the National Court authorized his extradition the month prior.
"This arrest is significant because it shows the length the American government will go to to get international traffickers," said Hunt.
Lopez is expected to appear in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. The exact charges against him weren't immediately clear, nor was attorney information.