Rays' Wander Franco charged with sexual abuse, sexual exploitation against a minor, human trafficking in D.R.



Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, as well as illicit migrant smuggling and human trafficking, the Ministerio Público announced in a press release on Wednesday. Allegations of Franco’s conduct first surfaced last August and he’s been under investigation by the Dominican government since. 

“We are aware of the charges against Mr. Franco,” MLB said in a statement. “Our investigation remains open, and we will continue to closely monitor the case as it moves forward.”

Franco last played a game for the Rays on Aug. 12, 2023. He had been on administrative leave since, but the league ended that arrangement once charges were filed. The Rays have since placed Franco on the restricted list, where he won’t be paid or earn service time, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He is currently in the third year of an 11-year, $182 million contract.

Allegations that Franco had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl came to light last August. According to prosecutors, the 23-year-old infielder provided the girl’s mother with cash payments and a car in exchange for her consenting to the relationship.

He was arrested in early January and released on a conditional waiver after paying the equivalent of about $34,000.

Prosecutors accused Franco of “taking the minor away from her home in Puerto Plata in December 2022 and having a four-month relationship with her with consent from the girl’s mother,” the Associated Press reported in January.

In September 2023, authorities raided the home of the girl’s mother and seized 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700) as well as $68,500 they said was found hidden behind a frame. They also found a guarantee certificate from a local bank for 2.1 million Dominican pesos ($36,000) that they said was delivered by Franco for the “commercial and sexual exploitation” of the girl.

In addition, they seized a Suzuki Swift worth $26,600, according to the document. Authorities noted that days before the car was bought, the teenager’s mother had the equivalent of $821 in her bank account.

The victim’s mother, who has not been officially identified, has also been charged with illicit migrant smuggling and human trafficking, as well as money laundering, among other crimes.

Franco made his first All-Star team last season and was one of MLB’s biggest up-and-coming stars before the allegations and now the formal charges. As noted, MLB can discipline him outside of the result of the charges in the Dominican Republic.

A spokesperson for the Rays did not immediately return a request for comment from CBS Sports Wednesday, but manager Kevin Cash called the charges “very concerning.” “Probably best I don’t comment much past that and keep our focus here on this team,” he told reporters.





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