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Rays’ Wander Franco arrested as prosecutors allege ‘commercial sexual exploitation’

Franco is also facing money laundering charges for alleged payments to a minor’s mother.

Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Tropicana Field on August 12, 2023 in St Petersburg, Florida. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was arrested in the Dominican Republic on Monday afternoon, according to a report from ESPN. The arrest stems from Franco’s failure to appear at summons last week — an important distinction, since it means Franco was not detained as a result of an advancement in the ongoing investigation into his alleged inappropriate relationships with multiple minors.

Franco and his attorneys met with prosecutors on Monday morning to address those accusations. On Wednesday, prosecutors delivered evidence to a judge, who is expected to issue a ruling on the next steps Friday. Here are more details about the charges Franco is facing, via the Associated Press:

Dominican prosecutors on Wednesday accused Wander Franco of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering following allegations that the Tampa Bay Rays shortstop had a relationship with a minor whose mother also faces the same charges.

Prosecutors requested that a judge hold Franco on an $86,000 bond, bar him from leaving the Dominican Republic and place him under house arrest. They noted the money laundering charges stems from allegations that Franco made payments to the minor’s mother.

Franco, 22, was placed on Major League Baseball’s Restricted List in August after he was first accused of an improper relationship with a minor on social media. Those allegations have expanded in the months since: ESPN reported last week that at least two people have “filed legal action” against Franco, and that a third had accused him of improper behavior without yet seeking legal action. Franco has also been accused of money laundering in connection to payments made to a minor’s mother. Dominican authorities and MLB have continued to investigate the allegations made against him.

The judge’s options include releasing Franco on bond, temporarily arresting him, preventing him from leaving the Dominican Republic, or requiring him to appear in court regularly until the investigation or a trial has ended. The Rays issued no comment to the Tampa Bay Times when asked about the Monday’s developments.

Franco signed an 11-year extension worth $182 million with the Rays in November 2021. He made the MLB All-Star Game this past summer, slashing .281/.344/.475 with 17 homers and 30 steals in 112 games. He continued to be paid for the rest of the season despite not appearing in a game after Aug. 12. The Rays, in what amounted to an administrative move, activated him to the 40-player roster at the beginning of the offseason.

“We support any steps taken by the league to better understand the situation,” the Rays said in a statement in August. “Out of respect for all parties involved, we have no further comments at this time.”