Rays' Wander Franco formally charged with human trafficking

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was formally charged with sex crimes in the Dominican Republic after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old.

The young player was charged with sexual abuse, sexual exploitation against a minor, and human trafficking. The charges reportedly carry a potential sentence of up to 20 years.

It was previously reported that an anonymous tip provided to the authorities in July 2023 eventually ignited an investigation against Franco. The anonymous individual said that he or she had seen a media post that alluded to the possibility that Franco was in a relationship with the 14-year-old girl.

‘Our investigation remains open, and we will continue to closely monitor the case.’

The 23-year-old shortstop was placed on administrative leave, a deal that was struck between Major League Baseball and its players association that took the player off the field but still paid him. It appeared the league wanted to see if Franco would be charged while keeping him out of the spotlight.

At the end of the administrative leave, the Rays reportedly requested that the MLB place Franco on the restricted list for not reporting to the team. Franco’s bail conditions require him to stay in the Dominican Republic, and, therefore, he was unable to report to his major league team.

Now that the charges have been formally laid, the request was granted, ESPN reported, and the player will not be paid and not receive service time.

Authorities spent more than six months building the case after it was initially reported that Franco took the underage girl away from her home in Puerto Plata in late 2022, with the girl’s mother allegedly giving consent for the relationship to continue.

As previously reported by Blaze News, a nearly 600-page document acquired by journalists in early 2024 stated that Franco started the relationship when he was 21 and the girl was 14. The shortstop also was accused of paying the child’s mother $1,700 per month (for seven months) and gave her a new car.

The vehicle was for the mother “to allow the relationship and let her go out with him wherever she wanted,” according to the document that quoted the underage girl.

The mother’s home was raided in September 2023 with authorities finding 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700 USD) and another $68,500 USD hidden behind a frame. A separate seizure found $36,000 USD in the form of a guarantee certificate from a local bank, which was allegedly tied to payments from Franco.

The mother has been charged with money laundering.

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

ESPN reported that it was able to reach Franco’s U.S.-based lawyer, who confirmed he received the charging documents but declined to comment.

Franco was just a couple years into an 11-year, $182 million contract and was an All Star in 2023.

The preliminary hearing for his case will reportedly take place on August 14, 2024.

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