Colombian vet charged in U.S. with smuggling heroin in puppies’ bellies

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

By Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) – A veterinarian from Colombia was charged with illegally smuggling narcotics into the United States by surgically implanting packets of liquid heroin into the bellies of puppies, U.S. prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Andres Lopez Elorez was arraigned in a federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday on an indictment of conspiring to import and distribute heroin into the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said.

Elorez, 38, pleaded not guilty, U.S. news reports said.

His court-appointed lawyer, Mitchell Dinnerstein, said his client “doesn’t have any real connection” to the United States, the New York Times reported. Dinnerstein was not immediately available for comment.

Elorez faces up to life imprisonment if convicted, U.S. prosecutors said.

“Dogs are man’s best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

Elorez is suspected of taking part in a conspiracy to bring drugs into the country more than a decade ago, prosecutors said.

The puppies, mostly purebred dogs including Labrador retrievers, had their bellies cut open and heroin stitched in. They were then exported to the United States with the smugglers hoping the dogs’ pedigrees would help ease their path through customs, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said.

A 2005 raid in Colombia found 10 dogs to be used as drug couriers who were rescued, but many puppies died in the operation, it said.

Elorez was arrested in Spain and extradited to the United States, prosecutors said.

“He 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,” Donoghue said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Paul Tait)

Trump to order National Guard to protect border with Mexico

FILE PHOTO - Members of the U.S Army National Guard monitor the Oculus transportation hub ahead of the U.S presidential election in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a proclamation on Wednesday ordering the deployment of the National Guard to help protect the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said.

Troops may be heading to the border as early as Wednesday night, Nielsen said, saying that the National Guard would support U.S. Custom and Border Protection but would not be involved in enforcement.

Nielsen spoke at a White House news briefing a day after Trump sharpened his anti-immigration rhetoric by saying he wanted to deploy U.S. military forces until his promised border wall is built.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a press briefing on border security at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a press briefing on border security at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“The president has directed that the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security work together with our governors to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border to assist the Border Patrol,” Nielsen said. “The president will be signing a proclamation to that effect today.”

She said the administration had drafted legislation and would be asking Congress to provide the legal authority and resources to address “this crisis at our borders.”

She did not give the number of the troops to be deployed or the cost of the operation.

Nielsen said that despite steps taken by the administration, the levels of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and dangerous gang activity across the border were unacceptable.

Trump met with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Nielsen and other officials to discuss border issues on Tuesday.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, lamenting what he called “horrible” U.S. laws that left the southern border poorly protected.

On Wednesday, Trump said in a tweet: “Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico andCanada are very strong. Congress must change these Obama era, and other, laws NOW!”

(This version of the story was refiled to add dropped word “but” in paragraph two)

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech and Leslie Adler)