In a recent development, a Dominican judge has ordered the conditional release of Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop, Wander Franco, while investigations continue into allegations of his involvement in a brief relationship with a 14-year-old girl. According to court documents obtained by The Associated Press, Franco is accused of providing the girl’s mother with a small car and thousands of dollars in exchange for her consent.
The judge’s ruling allows Franco to leave the Dominican Republic, but he must return monthly for meetings with authorities. As a part of the conditions, he is required to pay 2 million Dominican pesos ($34,000) as a deposit during the ongoing investigation.
Franco, a 22-year-old All-Star, faces accusations of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering. The judge had several options, including releasing him on bond, temporary arrest, restricting him from leaving the country, or demanding occasional appearances during the investigation.
The girl’s 35-year-old mother, facing the same charges as Franco, remains unnamed to protect her daughter’s privacy. Franco, detained on Monday in Puerto Plata, hasn’t been formally charged. The judge received a comprehensive 600-page document detailing evidence gathered during a months-long investigation.
Franco’s lawyers have not commented extensively, only stating that he is “doing fine.” The investigation originated from an anonymous tip received in July 2023, triggered by a media post alluding to the alleged relationship.
Authorities claim Franco took the minor from her home in December 2022, engaging in a four-month relationship with her with the mother’s consent. Monthly payments of $1,700 and the purchase of a car were allegedly made to facilitate the relationship. Franco has denied these claims, asserting the situation as an extortion attempt.
In September 2023, authorities seized funds and a car, linking them to the alleged exploitation. Franco’s mother, accused of sending money to the girl’s mother, has not been charged.
Franco, who had an All-Star season before being sidelined in August, is under investigation by both Dominican and Major League Baseball authorities. Major League Baseball placed him on administrative leave under its joint policy on domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.
Despite the ongoing investigations, Franco signed an $182 million, 11-year contract in 2021. His salary for last year and this year is $2 million per season. The case has attracted attention not only for its impact on Franco’s career but also for the broader implications concerning the legal and ethical aspects of the allegations.