Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation against a minor, Juan Arturo Recio of ESPN Republica Dominica reported.

Franco has been on administrative leave from Major League Baseball since last August when social media posts emerged alleging he had been engaged in a relationship with at least one underage girl. Prosecutors were already investigating the accusation thanks to an anonymous tip they received in July 2023.

Franco's leave was set to expire on June 1, but MLB extended it through July 14 in late May.

The Rays are still paying Franco during his leave. The 23-year-old infielder is due $2 million this season as part of a 11 year, $182,000,000 contract that he signed in 2022.

In January, Dominican prosecutors delivered 600 pages of evidence to a judge that allegedly demonstrated Franco had a relationship with a 14-year old girl, and provided cash and a car to the girl's mother in exchange for her consenting to the relationship. Their relationship allegedly began when Franco was 21.

How the Wander Franco investigation has unfolded

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) hits a walk off home run in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Tropicana Field.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Franco is accused of “taking the minor away from her home in Puerto Plata in December 2022 and having a four-month relationship with her with consent from the girl's mother,” according to a report from the Associated Press.

In December, police raided the home of the girl's mother, seizing 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700) and $68,500 they say they found hidden behind a frame.

“They also found a guarantee certificate from a local bank for 2.1 million Dominican pesos ($36,000) that they said was delivered by Franco for the ‘commercial and sexual exploitation' of the girl,” the AP report continues. “In addition, they seized a Suzuki Swift worth $26,600, according to the document. Authorities noted that days before the car was bought, the teenager's mother had the equivalent of $821 in her bank account.”

Franco was released from jail and allowed to leave the country in early January under the condition that he meet with authorities in the Dominican Republic once per month and pay around $34,000 as a deposit for his conditional release.

He did not report to Spring Training for the Rays in February and is not known to have returned to the United States since his release.

At the time that MLB placed Franco on leave, the Rays released a statement expressing support for the decision.

“We support Major League Baseball’s decision to place Wander Franco on Administration Leave,” the statement read. “The Tampa Bay Rays are dedicated to upholding high standards of integrity both on and off the field. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans and supporters as this process unfolds. We will have no further statements on this matter until MLB completes its process.”

MLB has not announced any formal discipline toward Franco, but the league is entitled to do so outside of whatever the Dominican Republic finds in its investigation. If MLB feels a suspension is warranted, it would be able to do so under its joint domestic violence policy.

Franco has not played since August 2023, at which point he was in the midst of an All-Star season, hitting .281 with 17 home runs.