HealthSportsWander Franco Cleared of Money Laundering and Exploitation Charges by Judge

Wander Franco Cleared of Money Laundering and Exploitation Charges by Judge

A judge threw out charges of money laundering and sexual exploitation of a minor against Wander Franco, but he still faces possible counts of sexual and psychological abuse and abduction related to an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old.

22-year-old Franco was released from jail in the Dominican Republic on Monday after posting a financial guarantee of $34,000 and agreeing to make monthly court visits for six months.

The accusation of sexual abuse of a minor is a serious felony, and, if found guilty, Franco could be looking at two to five years in prison according to the Associated Press.

Despite not being formally charged, Franco faces significant challenges if he wants to return to the United States, according to a former U.S. prosecutor who now works in private practice.

“It will be very difficult for him to come back, barring a determination that all these allegations have been made up,” Javad Khazaeli told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. “I can’t see his visa being approved any time soon with a credible allegation and a law enforcement prosecution going on. The U.S. government will defer to that.”

The Rays, Franco’s U.S.-based attorney, Jay Reisinger, and the Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment on the latest developments.

Franco has a special five-year visa for professional athletes to perform in the U.S. However, with Franco not working during the final months of the 2023 season, it will be hard to prove he needs to be in the U.S., Khazaeli said.

“The standard isn’t a conviction for immigration purposes,” Khazaeli said. “The standard is, No. 1, the (foreign citizen) has to show that they are admissible into the United States.”

The government can deny admission to a foreign citizen if there are reasonable grounds. State Department decisions generally cannot be appealed in the judicial system, Khazaeli said.

Such a decision could have further ramifications, potentially leading to Franco losing millions of dollars.

He likely would be unable to report for spring training or the Rays’ March 28 season opener. The team would have to place him on the restricted list and stop paying him if Franco can’t perform.

Shortly after the allegations surfaced in August, Franco was placed on administrative leave as part of the MLB and players union’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. This allowed investigations to continue while Franco was still paid.

Franco stayed in Florida until last month, when he returned to the Dominican Republic. He was detained on Jan. 1 for failing to respond to court summons as part of the investigation. He and the mother of the minor appeared in court Friday facing accusations of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering for allegedly making payments to the minor’s mother.

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