The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A plastic surgeon who replaced the fingerprints of an alleged drug dealer with skin from the bottom of his feet pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of harboring and concealing a fugitive.
Dr. Jose L. Covarrubias, a U.S. citizen who lived in the border town of Nogales, Ariz., and practiced medicine in neighboring Nogales, Mexico, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 11.
A plea agreement requires Covarrubias to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation of a Harrisburg-based drug ring. All other charges were dismissed.
The charges stemmed from surgery Covarrubias performed on co-defendant Marc George, 42, of Jamaica. The doctor replaced George's fingerprints with skin from his feet to help him avoid apprehension, authorities said.
Covarrubias, 49, was indicted by a grand jury in Harrisburg for his involvement with the drug ring, which prosecutors said conspired to buy marijuana from Tucson, Ariz., and elsewhere and distributed more than a ton of it in central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and other areas between 2004 and 2006. He was arrested in May while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
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George, an alleged courier of drugs and cash for the drug ring, was still limping badly when he was arrested at the Nogales border crossing in September 2005 on a charge of money laundering.