Venezuelan Vet Accused Of Using Puppies To Smuggle Drugs Into U.S.

| by Jared Keever

A Venezuelan veterinarian, wanted in the United States for his alleged role in an elaborate heroin smuggling operation, has been arrested in Spain. 

Authorities believe Andrés López Elorza, a Venezuelan national, was involved in a smuggling scheme in which liquid heroin, implanted inside live puppies, was shipped from Colombia to the United States. 

Police apprehended López, 33, Saturday in the northwestern Spanish town of Santa Comba, The Guardian reports.

A police spokeswoman, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity in keeping with police regulations, said López had been hiding out in the town since a national court authorized his extradition back to the United States last month.

López was first implicated in the drug smuggling plot in 2005 when police raided his veterinary clinic in Medellín, Colombia, according to the Daily Mail.

Authorities found 10 puppies at the clinic, according to a 2006 New York Times article. Six of the animals each had about a pound of the liquid heroin implanted inside their bellies when authorities arrived. 

John P. Gilbride, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York Field Division, said at the time that the heroin was packed in pliable, plastic pouches, and that surgical tools and an operating table were also found inside the clinic. 

“Throughout my 25-year career, this is one of the most outrageous methods of smuggling that I personally have encountered,” Gilbride told The Times.

López was said to have escaped Colombia after the raid and was believed to have fled to Spain. 

He was arrested by Spanish police in 2013 but was later released while the courts considered his extradition, The Guardian reports.

The anonymous source told The Guardian that López had been living in Spain, with his wife and two children, for the past eight years and working as a veterinarian for two separate companies. His employers reportedly spoke highly of him and he had no record of drug-trafficking charges while living in Spain.

Sources: The Guardian, Daily Mail, The New York Times

Photo Credit: MythicSeabass/Flickr, Steve Baker/Flickr