An American veterinarian was extradited from Spain to the United States three years after his arrest for allegedly sewing liquid heroin into the bellies of live puppies.
Andres Lopez Elorza, 38, pled not guilty Tuesday in Brooklyn to charges including conspiring to import and distribute heroin in the United States, according to Fox News.
He is also accused of stitching packets of liquid heroin into the bellies of multiple dogs including Labrador retrievers and other breeds, according to the Associated Press. He was denied bail.
His attorney, Mitch Dinnerstein, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Lopez Elorza allegedly sent the puppies on commercial flights to New York City, where the packets were later cut out of them, Fox News reported. It is unclear how many animals were involved.
The investigation into the vet was a part of a larger one delving into a drug trafficking scheme, The New York Daily News reported. Further details were not immediately available.
Lopez Elorza became a fugitive in 2005 when police in Colombia arrested over 20 suspected traffickers, according to the AP.
“Over time, drug organizations’ unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment,” James J. Hunt, director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York City office, said in a statement to the outlet.
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Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said Lopez Elorza “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,” in an interview with Fox News.
He continued, “Dogs are man’s best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are a drug dealers’ worst enemy.”