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

Wander Franco has been away from the Rays since allegations surfaced last August. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Wander Franco has been away from the Rays since allegations surfaced last August. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) (Douglas P. DeFelice via Getty Images)

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 have also accused Franco of human trafficking.

Franco had been on administrative leave since last August, when allegations that he was engaged in a relationship with an underage girl surfaced on social media. He hasn’t played in a game for the Rays since Aug. 12, 2023, and Major League Baseball extended his administrative leave through July 14.

MLB removed Franco from administrative leave and placed him on the restricted list on Wednesday at the request of the Rays, according to multiple reports. The move is not a disciplinary measure for the criminal charges, but it restricts Franco from receiving payment or accumulating service time while he's not with the team.

Franco faces up to 20 years in prison for the trafficking charge. MLB is still investigating Franco as well, which could lead to a suspension regardless of the criminal charges.

An initial complaint was reportedly filed with Dominican Republic authorities on July 17, 2023. 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 then 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 but were granted a 10-day extension last week.

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, but he was officially removed from the Rays’ 40-man roster before Opening Day this season.