Rays shortstop Wander Franco formally charged with sexual abuse, human trafficking in Dominican Republic: Report

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against a minor in the Dominican Republic, according to ESPN’s Juan Recio.

Franco has been away from the Rays for nearly a year amid multiple investigations.

Recio reported Monday morning that Dominican authorities are also accusing Franco of human trafficking.

Franco has been on administrative leave since last August, when allegations that he was engaged in a relationship with an underage girl first surfaced on social media. He hasn't played in a game for the Rays since Aug. 12, and Major League Baseball extended his administrative leave through July 14.

An initial complaint was reportedly filed with Dominican Republic authorities last July 17. At least two other girls have since come forward with similar allegations. The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18 years old.

Franco was summoned by Dominican authorities in December and was supposed to meet with the Specialized Prosecutor's Office for Children and Adolescents, but he failed to show up for that meeting. That prompted his arrest and a search of his hometown residence in Baní.

He was arrested for his failure to appear, not due to the sexual abuse investigation. He was released on parole, and has been required to make monthly control visits to a judge ever since. Prosecutors were facing a July 5 deadline to officially press charges against Franco, though they were granted a 10-day extension last week.

Franco is facing up to five years in prison if he is found guilty. MLB is still investigating Franco, too, which could lead to a suspension regardless of the criminal charges.

The 23-year-old was in the middle of his third season in the league when he was placed on administrative leave. He made the All-Star team in 2023 for the first time in his career. Franco signed an 11-year, $182 million deal with the Rays in 2021, though he was officially removed from the Rays’ 40-man roster before Opening Day this season.

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