Wander Franco, MLB, Tampa Bay Rays
Wander Franco celebrates during the Tampa Rays' game against the New York Yankees. (Getty)

Rays SS Wander Franco Charged With Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, per reports.

Franco has been under investigation for exactly one year — as the complaint against him for allegedly having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl was filed on July 10, 2023.

"Franco was initially accused by Dominican prosecutors of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering on Jan. 3; the mother of the girl, who was 14 when the alleged relationship began in December 2022, faced the same charge," ESPN wrote. "Six days later, after further review of the evidence, a judge in the Dominican Republic instead accused Franco of a lesser charge of sexual and psychological abuse.

"In a nearly 600-page document obtained by ESPN and presented to the judge at a hearing in January, prosecutors shared the evidence they have found in their investigation into Franco. The file includes transcripts of interviews with the girl and her relatives and messages between Franco and the girl."

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association just recently extended Franco's administrative leave through July 14. That was done to give Dominican authorities extra time to investigate the allegations and work on the case.

Also, MLB officials have launched a separate investigation into the allegations. It's not expected to be complete until the criminal case is resolved.

The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.

Franco, 23, made his MLB debut in 2021 and was named an All-Star in 2023.

"Administrative leave, which is not considered punitive, is designed to allow the league to conduct an investigation after players are accused of a violation," wrote Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors. "MLB and the Players Association have already agreed to extend Franco's leave until the All-Star Break. It is likely they'll continue to do so until the legal process in the D.R. is resolved."