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Jan 29, 2013

Player investigated for 'identity fraud'

A footballer who played for Peru in the South American Under-20 championship but was later accused of being an Ecuadorian and sent home could be imprisoned if he is proved to have falsified his identity.

Max Barrios and Peruvian ex-footballer Angel "Maradona" Barrios, who is alleged to be his father, are being investigated, reports in South America said.

"If [the crime] has been proven, the alleged Peruvian could go to prison for seven to 10 years," Jose Pelaez, the Peru national prosecutor, told the TV Peru Noticias TV channel.

The incident came to light as Peru met Ecuador in the Under-20 tournament earlier this month - a match in which Barrios, a defender, was sent off as Ecuador won 2-1.

Reports said Ecuadorian players claimed to have seen him playing in their country, and that they did not believe Barrios was his real name.

A member of their country's congress said the footballer was Juan Carlos Espinoza Mercado and was a 25-year-old Ecuadorean.

His identity document, now annulled, claimed he was born in northern Peru in 1995 - meaning he was picked by selectors for the tournament as an alleged 17-year-old.

Barrios senior said his alleged son was born in Ecuador and had played there when he was coaching Ecuador's Liga de Loja in 2010, but had dual nationality.

The player joined Peruvian first division side Juan Aurich a year ago. The club have now cancelled his contract, and South America's football governing body Conmebol and the Peruvian and Ecuadorean federations are investigating.

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