Prosecutors charge Vander Franco with commercial sexual exploitation

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Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic have charged Wander Franco with commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering, the Public Ministry said in a statement Wednesday night.

According to the statement, the Rays shortstop has been under investigation for more than four months due to allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a minor, whose mother is also facing the same charges.

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

In court filings, authorities asked that Franco, 22, be held on bond equal to $86,000, barred from leaving the country and placed under house arrest.

“These measures requested by the Public Ministry seek to guarantee the integrity of the process,” the official statement said.

Franco, who was taken into custody Monday on charges of ignoring a subpoena, remains in custody.

The money laundering charges stem from allegations that Franco made payments to the minor’s mother, the Associated Press reports.

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

Franco’s lawyer, Teodosio Jacquez Encarnación, has refused to speak to the media, telling reporters only that Franco is doing fine. Authorities have also declined to comment on the case beyond making an official statement because it involves 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 by the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario, this stage of the process is to determine whether the case moves forward, and if so whether Franco will be under sanctions.

At that time, the judge may release Franco on bond, continue to detain him temporarily, take measures to prevent him from leaving the Dominican Republic and/or demand that the case and/or trial If it continues, he may appear before the authorities occasionally. The judge may also dismiss the case if there is not enough evidence to proceed with the case.

After a quiet four-month investigation, the investigation into Franco has progressed rapidly since Christmas.

On December 26, two homes were searched as part of the Dominican Republic’s investigation: the home of Franco’s mother in the Palo Blanco community in Bani and the home registered to Franco in Villa Real. Officers also visited the home of Franco’s uncles the next day. He was not found at any place.

Franco’s wife was left with a notice that she had to appear at the prosecutors’ office on December 28.

Franco failed to show up, and when he finally appeared – with a new group of lawyers – he was interrogated and detained for nearly three hours. ESPN Deportes reported that he was arrested for failing to comply with a subpoena.

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The allegations against Franco first surfaced publicly via social media on August 13. Franco, who did not play in that day’s Rays game, appeared to refute them in a live video broadcast on his Instagram channel. Since then he has not spoken publicly.

Franco, who signed an 11-year deal worth $182 million in November 2021, did not play again last season. He initially agreed to take a week off from the Rays while Major League Baseball investigated. He was then placed on administrative leave under the league and players union’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. Officials in the Dominican Republic also confirmed they were investigating similar allegations.

MLB has traditionally waited for any legal investigation and/or prosecution before deciding on potential discipline. However, the league issued the suspension as a matter of policy even if there were no legal charges.

Franco, who is owed $2 million next season, was selected to his first All-Star team in July. When his season came to a close he was hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI.

The Rays have not commented on Franco’s case since August and have distanced themselves from their one-time face of the franchise. 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 replacement Taylor Walls had offseason hip surgery, and his availability for the start of the season is in question.


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