South Korea-Italy World Cup referee jailed for heroin smuggling

Posted by - September 24, 2011 - Italy, Oddballs, South America, World Cup

Italians say it’s nine years too late.

Former World Cup referee Byron Moreno was yesterday jailed for two-and-a-half years for heroin smuggling. A New York court passed the sentence after Moreno was arrested at JFK airport last year. He had arrived on a commercial flight from his native Ecuador with bags of heroin strapped to his body.

Moreno retired from whistling duties in 2003. He had enraged Italy supporters at the 2002 World Cup finals by sending off Francesco Totti and disallowing a goal in Italy’s 1-2 elimination by South Korea in a round-of-16 match, amid a host of other… interesting decisions.

The following season he was suspended from refereeing in Ecuador for 20 matches after allowing a mysterious 12 minutes of extra time in a league fixture.

Despite occasional work as a commentator, Moreno fell deeply in debt and agreed to smuggle 13.6lbs of heroin into the USA to clear up his financial problems.

Moreno received a relatively lenient sentence both for pleading guilty and for starting a soccer program for inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

“From the bottom of my heart, I am very sorry,” Moreno told Federal Judge Edward Korman. “I hope that God and you will forgive me.”

He will be deported from the USA after serving his sentence. Presumably not to Italy.