PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic (AP) — A Dominican judge on Friday ordered the conditional release of Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wonder Franco While he is being investigated over allegations that he had a brief relationship with a 14-year-old girl and gave her mother a small car and thousands of dollars in exchange for her consent, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The judge said Wander is allowed to leave the Dominican Republic but must return once a month to meet with authorities.
Wander, who was expected to be released early Saturday, did not speak to reporters after the hearing ended.
The 22-year-old All-Star was charged with commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering. The judge scheduled to rule in the case on Friday has several options: release Franco on bail, temporarily detain him, bar him from leaving the Dominican Republic, or require him to make occasional appearances until the investigation or trial concludes.
The 35-year-old's mother faces the same charges as Franco. The Associated Press did not mention the woman's name to protect her daughter's privacy.
franco, Who was arrested on Monday In the northern province of Puerto Plata, he has not been charged with any crimes. The judge received a nearly 600-page document detailing evidence gathered by prosecutors during a months-long investigation.
The athlete's lawyers did not comment except to say that Franco was “in good condition.”
Prosecutors said the investigation began after they received an anonymous tip in July 2023 stemming from someone who saw a media post alluding to the relationship. The AP was unable to verify the reported post.
The authorities accuse Franco of taking the minor from her home in Puerto Plata in December 2022 and having a relationship with her for four months with the consent of the girl’s mother.
They accuse Franco of sending the mother monthly payments of $1,700 for seven months and buying her a car “in order to allow the relationship and allow her to go out with him wherever she wants,” according to the document that quoted the girl.
The girl was also quoted as saying that she asked a local digital media site to publish an article about her alleged relationship with the baseball player because she was “fed up” with her mother, who accused her of taking Franco’s money and not sharing any of it. From her with her.
Days later, Franco posted a live video in which he claimed it was a scheme to extort money from him, the document said.
In September 2023, authorities raided the home of the girl's mother and confiscated 800,000 Dominican pesos ($13,700) in addition to $68,500 they said were found hidden behind a tire. Another seizure at another home found a guarantee certificate from a local bank worth 2.1 million Dominican pesos ($36,000) that they said Franco had handed over for the “commercial and sexual exploitation” of the girl.
In addition, they seized a Suzuki Swift valued at $26,600, according to the document. Authorities noted that days before purchasing the car, the teen's mother had the equivalent of $821 in her bank account. They said the mother also bought a property in Puerto Plata worth $36,000.
Authorities also indicate that Franco's mother sent money to the girl's mother, but she was not charged in the case, although she said she was involved “to avoid her son's traces with the accused.”
Franco arrived at the court in Puerto Plata on Friday morning and remained silent as he was led through a group of journalists who peppered him with questions. The girl's mother, who works at a local bank and was wearing sunglasses, also declined to comment as she was escorted into the courtroom.
Outside, a small group of young Dominican players dressed in baseball gear gathered to support Franco, carrying posters reading “Free Franco” and “We are all Franco.”
Franco was having an All-Star season before he was sidelined in August, when authorities in the Dominican Republic began investigating allegations that he was having an affair with a minor. Major League Baseball launched its own investigation, placing Franco on the banned list on August 14 before transferring him to the United States. Administrative leave on August 22. Both investigations are ongoing.
Franco A. signed $182 million, 11-year contract In 2021. His salary last year and this year is $2 million per season.
Cotto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico
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