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Byron Aldemar Moreno Ruales (born 23 November 1969) is an Ecuadorian former football referee and convicted drug smuggler.

Byron Moreno
Full name Byron Aldemar Moreno Ruales
Born (1969-11-23) 23 November 1969 (age 49)
Quito, Ecuador
Years League Role
0000–2003 Serie A Referee
Years League Role
1996–2003 FIFA listed Referee


Refereeing careerEdit

During the 2002 FIFA World Cup Moreno refereed the round of 16 match between Italy and co-hosts South Korea on 18 June; following Italy's elimination from the tournament after a 2–1 extra-time loss, Moreno's performance was criticised for several decisions: he awarded South Korea a controversial penalty in the first half (which was saved by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, however), and later disallowed what would have been a golden goal by Damiano Tommasi for offside, as well as showing a second yellow card to Francesco Totti for a dive in South Korea's penalty area in extra-time while he was 40 yards away from the play.[1][2]

In September 2002, while a candidate in October elections for places on the Quito city council, Moreno was suspended for twenty matches[3] and investigated by Ecuadorian football authorities.[4] This came after he made timekeeping errors in a match he officiated between Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito and Barcelona Sporting Club. FIFA also investigated him due to controversies " Japan, Italy and South America over the past few months".[5]

In May 2003, in his third game back from his suspension, Moreno was again suspended, for one match, after he sent off three players from visiting Deportivo Quito in a 1–1 draw at Deportivo Cuenca.[6] He retired the following month, blaming low performance marks for his retirement.[7]


Moreno was arrested on 21 September 2010 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, while trying to smuggle in six kilograms (over thirteen pounds) of heroin, which was hidden in his underwear.[8] In January 2011, he pleaded guilty to the charges in a New York courthouse, facing a possible ten years in prison.[9] On 23 September 2011, Moreno was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on the heroin smuggling charges.[10] He was released from prison 26 months later and returned to Ecuador.[11]


  1. ^ "Fifa investigates Moreno". BBC News. 2002-09-13.
  2. ^ "Soccer Referees on Run, and They Can't Hide". The New York Times. 21 June 2002.
  3. ^ "Referee suspended for 20 matches". Soccernet. 2002-09-11. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
  4. ^ "FIFA investigates Moreno". Soccernet. 2002-09-13. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
  5. ^ "Fifa investigates Moreno". BBC News. 2002-09-13.
  6. ^ "Controversial ref suspended again". The New Zealand Herald. 2003-05-23. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
  7. ^ "Ecuador ref Moreno complains at low marks". Sports Illustrated. 2003-06-10. Archived from the original on 2003-10-16. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
  8. ^ "L'arbitro che eliminò l'Italia da Corea 2002 arrestato a New York con sei chili di eroina". La Repubblica. 2010-09-21. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  9. ^ Ex-Referee Byron Moreno Pleads Guilty To Heroin Smuggling
  10. ^ Ex-referee sentenced to 2½ years
  11. ^ "Byron Moreno enfrenta otra indagación"

External linksEdit