Dominican Republic authorities searched for Wander Franco: report

Listin Diario reports that officials searched for Franco at his family home and his residence in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday afternoon.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco returned to the Dominican Republic after the season ended, amid ongoing investigations in his native country and by Major League Baseball.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco returned to the Dominican Republic after the season ended, amid ongoing investigations in his native country and by Major League Baseball. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 27, 2023|Updated Dec. 27, 2023

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. Wednesday): A day after authorities went to two Dominican Republic residences searching for Wander Franco, the Rays shortstop was officially summoned to answer a complaint of allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with minors, ESPN reported Wednesday.

UPDATE (11 a.m. Wednesday): The Associated Press reported, via an anonymous source, that authorities wanted Franco to appear at the Public Ministry offices with a lawyer to be interviewed about the ongoing case. The Rays also have declined to comment on the latest reports.

DEVELOPING: The Santo Domingo Prosecutor’s Office for Children and Adolescents searched two homes in the Dominican Republic looking for Rays shortstop Wander Franco on Tuesday, according to a Dominican Republic newspaper.

Listin Diario reported that Dominican authorities are looking for Franco on allegations of having a relationship with a minor from Puerto Plata.

The 22-year-old Franco had returned to his native Dominican Republic earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times previously reported. Franco was not located by authorities on Tuesday, according to Listin Diario.

Around 3 p.m., police cars and authorities arrived at Franco’s “maternal home” in Baní, Peravia, province to search for the player, the newspaper reported. They also went to Franco’s home in Villa Real. Neighbors in Villa Real said authorities left contact information for the player to get in touch with them, the report said.

MLB insider Hector Gomez posted on X that new evidence has been uncovered “that further implicates (Franco) in the accusations that have been made against him of alleged relationships with minors.”

Franco’s U.S.-based attorney, Jay Reisinger, had no comment Tuesday night.

This is the latest update in what has been a four-month investigation by Dominican authorities and Major League Baseball into allegations that Franco had inappropriate relationships with minors. The legal age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.

The allegations against Franco came to light publicly via social media in mid-August, and the Rays and the league immediately took Franco off the field. Initially, he agreed to a one-week leave from the team on Aug. 13. He later was placed on administrative leave under the MLB and players union’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

Franco, who denied the allegations via a live broadcast on Instagram when they first emerged, did not play in an MLB game after Aug. 12. He also has not spoken to media.

MLB traditionally has waited for any legal investigation and prosecution to take place before deciding on possible suspensions. Franco missed the final 42 games of the regular season and that would be weighed against any discipline by MLB. The league has taken action in similar cases even if there were no legal charges.

Franco, who is owed $2 million for the 2024 season, signed a team-record 11-year, $182 million contract with the Rays in November 2021. He earned his first All-Star team nod in July and was hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs this past season.

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The Rays have been left in limbo regarding the future of the player they thought would be the foundation of their future. Spring training opens in less than two months with position players expected to report around Feb. 18. They have several infielders in their organization who can play shortstop, but their top replacement, Taylor Walls, had offseason hip surgery and his availability for the beginning of the season is in question.

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