Rays’ Wander Franco charged with sexual abuse, exploitation of a minor: report

 

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has reportedly been charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against a minor.

Franco was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 22 as Major League Baseball investigated his alleged relationships with underage girls.

The allegations were made public earlier that month following social media posts, but the first complaint was filed in July. 

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The Rays began to take down images of Franco around Tropicana Field amid the allegations. There has also been no sign of Franco merchandise being sold at the Rays’ team store within their ballpark.

Franco last played a Major League game on Aug. 12, and with the charges, it is now increasingly likely he will never play again.

Franco was an All-Star for the first time last season. He slashed .281/.344/.475 with 17 homers and 58 RBI over 112 games this past season.

He signed an 11-year, $182 million contract extension in November 2021, but a team option in 2033 could make the deal worth $233 million when it is over. Of course, the Rays could get out of it if Franco goes to jail, citing a “good citizenship” clause in the uniform player contract.

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After Dominican police raided two homes associated with Franco just before the new year, he was eventually arrested. He was later released under the condition that he meet with local authorities once a month. 

According to ESPN, Dominican prosecutors say that Franco called the minor “my girl” in a WhatsApp message, admitting that the relationship was a “risk,” but he “loved it.”

“My girl,” Franco allegedly wrote in Spanish. “If my team realizes this, it could cause problems for me. It is a rule for all teams that we cannot talk to minors, and yet I took the risk and I loved it.”

Prosecutors say Franco’s relationship with the girl, now 15, lasted four months, and he paid her to not speak about it. The girl’s mother also faces charges for money laundering based on gifts sent to her by Franco. Franco and the girl met on Dec. 9, 2022, after he “took her from her home,” had sex twice in a two-day span and began their relationship.

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Franco gave the girl the equivalent of $46,000 in July and August, the documents say, and paid the mother about $1,700 per month, along with a new car.

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