Report: Rays’ Wander Franco charged with sexual abuse of minor

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against a minor on Tuesday, according to ESPN.

The charges came in the Dominican Republic, where Franco and the minor involved in the case are from.

Kelmin Duncan, a prosecutor for the Puerto Plata District Office, and a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office confirmed to ESPN that Franco was officially being accused of the crimes.

Franco was under investigation since July 2023 following a formal complaint that accused the now 23-year-old of having a sexual relationship with a minor. A second formal complaint was filed a month later alleging the same crime.

Franco was supposedly having a relationship with a 14-year-old girl according to the first complaint, and Dominican prosecutors initially accused him of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering charges on Jan. 3. Then on Jan. 9, a judge lessened the charge, changing it to sexual and psychological abuse.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association had extended Franco’s administrative leave through this coming Sunday to give Dominican authorities more time to work on the case. Franco has been away from the Rays since Aug. 14, 2023, first spending time on the restricted list before going on administrative leave on March 28.

On top of the criminal investigation, MLB also looked into the allegations, and its investigation is not expected to be completed until the criminal case wraps up. There is still a chance that Franco’s administrative leave gets extended, and the former All-Star also could be punished by the MLB depending on the results of its investigation.

Franco spent three seasons with Tampa Bay, posting career highs last year in homers (17), RBIs (58) and stolen bases (30) while making the American League All-Star team.