Asprilla's friend guilty of possessing cocaine

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The Independent Online
An addict who bought cocaine with the help of pounds 1,000 given to him by Faustino Asprilla, the footballer, was yesterday convicted of possessing the drug.

Leonel Sarmiento-Mottoa, 31, who befriended the Newcastle United striker after his arrival in Britain last year, was cleared at Southwark Crown Court of possessing cocaine with intent to supply.

Judge Peter Fingret remanded the defendant on bail until next Thursday for sentence. But he warned Sarmiento-Mottoa that the almost inevitable outcome would be a prison sentence.

Asprilla told the court that he did not know the defendant was a cocaine addict or that he intended to spend the money he had given him on drugs.

Speaking through an interpreter, he told the jury he thought he was helping his fellow Colombian with accommodation problems after he was evicted from his home.

Sarmiento-Mottoa left court yesterday fighting back tears and said he was "too emotional" to speak.

Asprilla told the court how he got to know Sarmiento-Mottoa, a cleaner from north London, after his transfer to Tyneside from Parma in Italy. He told the jury: "He said to me that he had problems with his lodgings and he had to live in a hotel and he asked me for help to pay for it. I knew nothing at all about his drug taking."