Rays’ Wander Franco Accused of Sexual Harassment, Exploitation of Minors: Report

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

The charges were filed in the Dominican Republic, where Franco and the minor involved are from.

Kelmin Duncan, a prosecutor with the Puerto Plata district office and a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, confirmed to ESPN that Franco has been officially charged with the crimes.

Franco had been under investigation since July 2023 following a formal indictment accusing the 23-year-old of having sex with a minor. A second formal charge was filed a month later for the same crime.

The initial indictment alleged that Franco had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl, and Dominican prosecutors initially charged him with commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering on January 3. Then, on January 9, a judge softened the charge to sexual and psychological abuse.

Wander Franco made his MLB debut in 2021.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association extended Franco’s administrative leave until next Sunday to give Dominican authorities more time to work on the case. Franco has been out of action for the Rays since Aug. 14, 2023, first spending time on the restricted list and then going on administrative leave on March 28.

In addition to the criminal investigation, MLB has also looked into the allegations, and its investigation will likely not be complete until the criminal case is concluded. There is still a chance that Franco’s administrative leave will be extended, and the former All-Star could also face punishment from MLB depending on the results of the investigation.

Franco spent three seasons with Tampa Bay, recording personal bests in home runs (17), RBIs (58) and stolen bases (30) last year and making the American League All-Star team.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rays’ Wander Franco formally charged with sexual assault of a minor