El Salvador soccer players accused of match-fixing acquitted of criminal charges

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Eleven soccer players and two foreign businesspeople accused of match-fixing involving El Salvador's national team were acquitted of criminal charges Friday.

Prosecutors had accused the defendants of money laundering, cover-up and illegal association, and they faced possible sentences of up to 19 years if convicted.

Judge Ernesto Parada ruled the suspects' alleged conduct did not rise to the level of the criminal charges and was instead a matter of morality and conscience.

The Salvadoran Soccer Federation investigated four of the national squad's matches in connection with the scandal. They included a 2-1 loss to the United States in Florida in a 2010 friendly and a 5-0 defeat by Mexico at the 2011 Gold Cup.

Fourteen players received lifetime bans and eight more were suspended for periods ranging from six months to five years.

World soccer authority FIFA made the bans global.

The players acquitted Friday were Miguel Montes, Dagoberto Portillo, Dennis Alas, Marvin Gonzalez, Romeo Monteagudo, Miguel Granadino, Mardoqueo Henriquez, Ramon Sanchez, Cristian Castillo, Darwin Bonilla and Osael Romero.

The two businesspeople, Malian-Singaporean Gaye Alasanne and Nicaraguan Mauricio Collado, were alleged to have acted as intermediaries to pay the players and fix matches.

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