Rays Shortstop Wander Franco Formally Charged With Sexual Abuse, Human Trafficking in Dominican Republic: Report

Wander Franco has not played for the Rays since the allegations first surfaced last August. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

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

Franco has been out of the Rays' closet for nearly a year due to multiple investigations.

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

Franco has been on administrative leave since last August, when allegations that he had a relationship with a minor surfaced on social media. He hasn't played 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 on July 17. At least two other girls have since made similar accusations. The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.

Franco had been summoned in December by the Dominican authorities to meet with the Specialized Prosecutor's Office for Minors and Adolescents, but he did not show up for the meeting, leading to his arrest and a search of his home in Baní.

He was arrested for failing to appear in court, not because of the sexual abuse investigation. He was released on parole and has since been required to report to a judge every month for check-ups. Prosecutors had until July 5 to file charges against Franco, but they were granted a 10-day extension last week.

Franco faces up to five years in prison if convicted. MLB is still investigating Franco, which could lead to a suspension regardless of the criminal charges.

The 23-year-old was in his third season in the league when he was placed on administrative leave. He was selected to the 2023 All-Star team for the first time in his career. Franco signed an 11-year, $182 million contract 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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