Rays Shortstop Wander Franco Formally Charged With Sexual Abuse, Exploitation In Dominican Republic

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was formally charged in the Dominican Republic for sexual abuse and sexually exploiting a minor. Wander is set to go on trial and could potentially face a maximum of five years behind bars if convicted.

ESPN's Jeff Passan relayed the update (via Juan Arturo Recio), casting further doubt about Franco's future in MLB as the recipient of the biggest contract in Rays franchise history.

Franco has been on leave since Aug. 2023 after allegations surfaced of the All-Star player exploiting a 14-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic.

Tampa abruptly scratched Franco from their lineup ahead of a matchup against the Cleveland Guardians on Aug. 13. The 23-year-old star shortstop was not permitted to travel with the team later that day, en route to San Francisco for the ensuing series. Rays general manager Kevin Cash called it a "day off" for Franco.

READ: Rays Place Wander Franco On Adminstrative Leave As Investigations Continue

The allegations surfaced on social media and Franco was placed on administrative leave within days of the news. 

Franco went on Instagram Live and denied the allegations alongside teammate Jose Siri. Since the initial allegations, two additional girls in the Dominican Republic stepped forward with similar allegations. 

Franco, who signed an 11-year, $182 million deal with Tampa Bay in 2022, was accused of paying off the underage girl's mother for consent with money and a car. 

The Santa Domingo Prosecutor's Office arrested Franco in January 2024 for failing to attend a meeting. Raids were conducted on Franco's homes in the Dominican Republic in December. Franco's wife was present at their Villa Real residence during a raid. Franco and his wife share two children.

MLB extended Franco's leave until July 14 and continued investigating the troubled player.

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Alejandro Avila lives in Southern California and previously covered news for the LA Football Network. Jeopardy expert and grumpy sports fan. Known for having watched every movie and constant craving for dessert. @alejandroaveela (on X)