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


Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, reports ESPN. Allegations of Franco’s conduct first surfaced last August and he’s been under investigation by the Dominican government since. 

Franco last played a game for the Rays on Aug. 12, 2023. He’s been on administrative leave since and recently had the leave extended through July 14 so the league could allow the legal process to play out. Being on leave means Franco hasn’t been on the Rays roster, but is continuing to be paid. He is in the third year of an 11-year, $182 million contract, but Major League Baseball can suspend Franco — likely after the legal process has concluded — without pay under the joint domestic violence policy.

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.

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.

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