Tampa Bay Rays Shortstop Released on Bond Amid Controversy Over Alleged Relationship with Minor

PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic – Wander Franco, a shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays, has been ordered for conditional release by a Dominican judge while under investigation for allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old girl. According to court documents obtained, Franco is accused of providing the girl’s mother with a small car and thousands of dollars in exchange for her consent.

Franco’s bond has been set at 2 million pesos ($34,000) and he is expected to be released on Saturday. However, he must return to the Dominican Republic once a month to meet with authorities. The 22-year-old All-Star is facing charges of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering.

The investigation into Franco began in December 2022 when authorities received an anonymous tip. Prosecutors claim that Franco took the minor from her home and had a four-month relationship with her, allegedly with the mother’s consent. The girl has stated that Franco made monthly payments of $1,700 to her mother for seven months and bought her a car to facilitate the relationship.

In September 2023, authorities raided the girl’s mother’s home and found 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700) and $68,500 hidden behind a frame. They also discovered a guarantee certificate from a local bank for 2.1 million Dominican pesos ($36,000), allegedly given by Franco for the exploitation of the girl. In addition to cash seizures, a Suzuki Swift worth $26,600 was seized as well.

Franco’s mother has also reportedly sent money to the girl’s mother, although she has not been charged in the case. The authorities claim she got involved to help conceal her son’s connection to the accused.

Franco, who signed a lucrative contract in 2021, had been having an impressive season before being sidelined in August due to these allegations. Major League Baseball has launched its own investigation into the matter, placing Franco on the restricted list and later placing him on administrative leave. Both investigations are ongoing.

The judge presiding over Franco’s case has several options, including releasing him on bond or temporarily arresting him. Alternatively, he could prevent Franco from leaving the country or require him to periodically appear until the investigation or trial concludes.

It is important to note that the girl’s mother also faces the same charges as Franco. To protect the girl’s privacy, the Associated Press is refraining from naming the mother.

In conclusion, Wander Franco, the talented Tampa Bay Rays shortstop, has been conditionally released by a Dominican judge while being investigated for allegations of a brief relationship with a minor. He is facing serious charges of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering. The case remains ongoing as both the Dominican authorities and Major League Baseball continue their investigations.