Prosecutors accuse Wander Franco of commercial sexual exploitation – Tampa

Prosecutors accuse Wander Franco of commercial sexual exploitation – Tampa Bay Times

Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic have accused Wander Franco of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering, the state ministry said in a statement Wednesday evening.

The Rays' shortstop has been under investigation for more than four months over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a minor whose mother faces the same charges, the statement said.

Franco is scheduled to appear before a judge in the case for the first time Friday at 8 a.m. ET.

In documents filed with the court, authorities requested that Franco, 22, be held on $86,000 bail, barred from leaving the country and placed under house arrest.

“These measures requested by the State Department are aimed at ensuring the integrity of the process,” the official statement said.

Franco, who was arrested Monday for violating a summons, remains in custody.

According to an Associated Press report, the money laundering charge stems from allegations that Franco made payments to the minor's mother.

Prosecutors are also asking the judge to ban the minor's mother from leaving the country and place her under house arrest.

Franco's lawyer, Teodosio Jáquez Encarnación, refused to speak to the media, telling reporters only that Franco was fine. Authorities also refused to comment on the case outside of the official statement because it involved a minor. The legal age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18 years.

Now the prosecution's case, including the evidence, is in the hands of an investigating judge. According to a report in the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario, this phase of the trial will determine whether the case will move forward and whether Franco will be subject to restrictions.

At that point, the judge may release Franco on bail, continue to temporarily detain him, take measures to prevent him from leaving the Dominican Republic, and/or require him to attend from time to time as the case and/or trial progresses appears to the authorities. The judge could also dismiss the case if there is not enough evidence to support it in the future.

After four months of quiet investigations, the investigation against Franco has progressed quickly since Christmas.

On December 26, two houses were searched as part of the investigation in the Dominican Republic: the house of Franco's mother in the municipality of Palo Blanco in Baní and the house registered to Franco in Villa Real. The next day, authorities also visited the homes of Franco's uncles. He was not found at any of the locations.

Franco's wife was told he was scheduled to appear at the prosecutor's office on December 28.

Franco didn't show up, and when he finally showed up – with a new team of lawyers – he was interrogated for about three hours and arrested. ESPN Deportes reported he was arrested for failing to comply with a subpoena.

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Allegations against Franco first came to light publicly on social media on August 13. Franco, who did not attend the Rays game that day, appeared to deny them in a live video he broadcast on his Instagram. He has not spoken publicly since then.

Franco, who signed an 11-year contract worth $182 million in November 2021, did not play again last season. He initially agreed to take a week's leave of absence from the Rays as Major League Baseball investigated. He was subsequently placed on leave under the league's and players' union's joint policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Dominican Republic authorities also confirmed they are investigating similar allegations.

Traditionally, MLB has waited for a legal investigation and/or prosecution before deciding on possible disciplinary action. However, the league has issued suspensions under this policy even in the absence of legal charges.

Franco, who is due $2 million next season, was named to his first All-Star team in July. When his season ended, he was hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs.

The Rays have not commented on Franco's case since August and have distanced themselves from their former franchise face. The team removed advertising and merchandise featuring the shortstop from Tropicana Field.

With spring training starting next month, the Rays have several infielders who can play shortstop. But top reserve Taylor Walls had offseason hip surgery and his availability at the start of the season is questionable.

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