Rays’ Wander Franco accused of commercial sexual exploitation, money laundering
Jan. 4 (UPI) — Prosecutors are accusing Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering, stemming from an alleged inappropriate relationship with a minor, Dominican authorities said.
The Dominican Republic attorney general’s office announced Wednesday that prosecutors in the province of Puerta Plata filed a request for a coercive measure against Franco and the mother of a minor, who are charged with the same crimes.
Franco is alleged to have made payments to the mother in connection to his relationship with the minor.
Prosecutors requested that a judge to hold Franco on an $86,000 bond, prohibit him from leaving the country and to be placed under house arrest.
“These measures requested by the Public Ministry seek to guarantee the integrity of the process,” the prosecutors said in a news release.
Prosecutor’s said they omitted the name of the mother to “preserve the rights of the teenager,” an alleged victim of the crimes.
The judge is scheduled to survey case material and other evidence from investigations and issue a court ruling Friday in Puerta Plata. The judge could release Franco on bond, place him under arrest, bar him from leaving the country or require additional appearances until the case is closed.
An investigation led by the Puerto Plata prosecutor’s office remains active. The national director of children, adolescents and families of the Public Ministry, deputy prosecutor Olga Dina Llaverias, and several other officials and agencies are involved in the probe.
“These actions were carried out with the collaboration of the specialized prosecutor’s office against illicit smuggling of migrants and human trafficking, the special division for investigations of transnational crimes and the intelligence department of the national police,” the news release said.
Franco, 22, was arrested Monday in Puerto Plata for failing to appear on a summons. He was initially asked to appear for an interview Dec. 28 with Llaverias. Officials visited two of Franco’s properties last week, but could not locate the 22-year-old.
He was arrested Wednesday after being interviewed in the Dominican Republic by prosecutors investigating him for alleged inappropriate relationships with minors.
MLB and the Rays had no comment on the arrest. A league investigation into Franco is ongoing. MLB placed Franco on administrative leave Aug. 22. The Bani, Dominican Republic, native’s return remains uncertain. He has denied the allegations.
The Rays placed Franco on the restricted list in mid-August after a social media posts claimed he was in a relationship with an underage girl.