Wander Franco arrived at court in the Dominican Republic Friday morning to stand before a judge over his alleged improper relationship with a minor.
Franco faces allegations that he had a brief relationship with the then-14-year-old girl and gave her mother thousands of dollars and a car in exchange for her consent.
The 22-year-old, who denies the allegations, is accused of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering, with the alleged victim’s mother facing the same charges.
Franco was arrested earlier this week after missing a meeting with the prosecutor investigating the case.
Franco, a shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays, was initially due in court in his homeland on Wednesday. Prosecutors filed the case but the All-Star’s appearance before a judge was delayed until Friday at 9am ET.
MLB star Wander Franco arrived at court in the Dominican Republic Friday morning
The Tampa Bay shortstop arrived for his hearing into his alleged relationship with a minor
Franco was arrested earlier this week after missing a meeting with the prosecutor in the case
The MLB star was transported to the Puerto Plata courthouse Friday morning, arriving in handcuffs and escorted by police.
Franco kept his head down and stayed silent, despite questions from members of of the media in his homeland, as he entered the building.
The girl’s mother, wearing sunglasses, also kept quiet as she was escorted into the courthouse.
Outside the building a group of young baseball fans gathered with signs to protest for Franco’s release.
The judge was scheduled to issue a ruling in the case on Friday but it is now expected to be delayed after the girl’s father filed a complaint.
The judge could opt to release Franco on bond, temporarily arrest him, prevent him from leaving the Dominican Republic, or demand that he make occasional appearances until the investigation or a trial has ended.
The judge has received a nearly 600-page document detailing the evidence that prosecutors gathered during a months-long investigation, according to Associated Press. Franco hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
A man, who described himself as the alleged victim’s uncle, told reporters at court Friday that the girl was at his ‘house during the first raid.’
‘During those days she did not want to be with her mother,’ he said. ‘She approached us. In order not to leave her wandering, we took her to our residence so that she could be with us.
‘There was where the first raid was carried out, that they were looking for the supposed money that the girl had but that is not the case. The money he had was a servant. I told my wife to put it on a fixed-term basis at Banco Agricola. The same administrator told me you were smarter for declaring it and paying tax. And it is a reality. The money is declared. The money belonged to her mother who gave it to her. I took it away.
‘She asked me, “Uncle what do I do with this money?” And I told her, “you cannot have this money.” I took it away because if I let her, she would have squandered it because she was already at a fast pace with that money.
‘The girl told me that she did not want to be with her mother, that she wanted to be with us. She feels cold and sad.’
Authorities have accused Franco of sending the mother payments of $1,700 per month for seven months and bought her a car ‘to allow the relationship and let her go out with him where they wanted to’, according to court documents.
The underaged girl, who has not been named for legal reasons, told Dominican Republic investigators that her mother took advantage of her relationship with Franco to benefit herself.
Tampa Bay Rays All-Star shortstop Franco (left) is said to have had a four-month relationship with a then-15-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic that was approved by her mother
‘Since I was little, my mother has seen me as a way for her to benefit from both the partners she has had and my partners and it is something that I really dislike,’ the minor said, according to a court document obtained by Dominican news outlet Noticias Sin.
The document, which was part of the case evidence presented by the Public Ministry in court Wednesday, showed that the girl’s mother approved Franco’s relationship with the then-15-year-old ‘for a span of four months’ in 2022.
Franco allegedly visited the family home on ‘December 9, 2022, he took her for a period of two days… (and) had sexual relations with the teenager,’ said the prosecution.
The court record revealed that the teenage girl told a psychologist that her mother ‘received the sum of RD$100,000 during seven months’ from Franco, who bought her a vehicle.
In exchange for the money, the woman allegedly provided approval for the dates Franco and her daughter went on.
Outside court on Friday, a lawyer representing the alleged victim’s father, said that he found out about his daughter’s alleged relationship with Franco on social media, according to CDN, an outlet in the Dominican Republic.
The alleged relationship came to light in August after the National Agency for Boy, Girls, Adolescents and Family and Gender Violence Unit received an anonymous tip.
According to the Public Ministry, the agency was alerted that ‘a teenager had sent to publish that she had a relationship with the baseball player… and that she wanted it published because her mother, the accused, had her tired, and that she was taking money from the accused and that she didn’t give her anything.’
Dominican Republic prosecutors found that Franco allegedly made monthly payments of $100,000 Dominican pesos ($1,700 USD)
Franco was ordered to meet with authorities from the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office for Children and Adolescents in the city of Santo Domingo on December 28.
Local newspaper Listin Diario released a video showing officials waiting for the MLB star and listing him as a no-show.
Then on Monday, after finally visiting authorities investigating the case, Franco was detained in Puerto Plata.
The Rays placed Franco on the restricted list back in August – and then on paid administrative leave – as MLB launched an investigation into social media posts indicating Franco was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a minor.