Rays Shortstop Wander Franco Formally Charged with Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking in Dominican Republic: Report

Wander Franco has not played for the Rays since the allegations first surfaced last August. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, according to ESPN’s Juan Recio.

Franco has been sidelined by the Rays for almost a year due to multiple investigations.

Recio said Monday morning that Dominican authorities are also accusing Franco of human trafficking.

Franco has been on administrative leave since last August, when allegations of a relationship with an underage girl first surfaced on social media. He has not played in a game for the Rays since Aug. 12, and Major League Baseball extended his administrative leave until July 14.

The first complaint was reportedly filed with Dominican authorities on July 17. At least two other girls have since come forward with similar allegations. The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.

Franco was summoned by Dominican authorities in December to meet with the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Children and Youth, but he failed to show up for the meeting, prompting his arrest and a search of his family home in Baní.

He was arrested for failing to appear, not because of the sexual assault investigation. He was released on parole and has been required to make monthly check-ins with a judge since then. Prosecutors had a July 5 deadline to formally file charges against Franco, though they were granted a 10-day extension last week.

Franco faces up to five years in prison if convicted. MLB is still investigating Franco, which could lead to a suspension regardless of the criminal charges.

The 23-year-old was in his third season in the league when he was sidelined. He made the All-Star team for the first time in his career in 2023. Franco signed an 11-year, $182 million contract extension with the Rays in 2021, though he was officially removed from the Rays’ 40-man roster before Opening Day this season.