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Turks and Caicos Authorities Arrest Four American Tourists, Including a Hunter, For Accidentally Leaving Ammo in Luggage

The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Turks and Caicos Authorities Arrest Four American Tourists, Including a Hunter, For Accidentally Leaving Ammo in Luggage

Posted 2024-05-06  by  Stephanie Mallory

The men could face a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison

A hunter and several other American tourists have been arrested in Turks and Caicos in recent months and could face at least 12 years in prison after accidentally leaving ammo in their luggage.

According to CBS News, possessing a gun or ammo is prohibited in Turks and Caicos. Previously, tourists were often allowed to simply pay a fine, but in February, a court order mandated that even tourists are subject to prison time.

Ryan Watson, a 40-year-old father of two from Oklahoma, was released from a Turks and Caicos jail on $15,000 bond Wednesday, April 24. He was arrested April 12 while on vacation with his wife when Turks and Caicos airport security allegedly found four rounds of hunting ammo in his carry-on bag.

His wife, Valerie Watson, who was not charged, flew home to Oklahoma. As part of his bond agreement, Ryan must remain on the island and check in every Tuesday and Thursday at the Grace Bay Police Station while his case moves forward.

Ryan Watson told CBS News that he checked the bag before he packed it.

"I opened it up and kind of give it a little shimmy, didn't see anything, didn't hear anything," he said.

TSA says its officers missed the ammo when screening Watson's bag at the checkpoint on April 7 at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

In a statement provided to CBS News, a TSA spokesperson said that "an oversight occurred that the agency is addressing internally."

"It was my mistake," Ryan Watson said. "It was very innocent. And I just pray for, compassion and consideration, because there was zero criminal intent."

On April 20, 30-year-old Tyler Wenrich was arrested on the island after authorities found two bullets in his backpack right before he was about to board a cruise ship.

A Virginia EMT and father, Wenrich now faces the potential of a mandatory minimum prison sentence of up to 12 years.

"I feel like, as a very honest mistake, that 12 years is absurd," his wife, Jeriann Wenrich, told CBS News.

"My son's only 18 months old, and I just don't want to him to grow up without a dad," Wenrich said.

There are currently at least four American tourists facing the possibility of lengthy prison sentences for similar charges.

Michael Lee Evans, 72, was arrested in December and pled guilty to possession of seven rounds of ammo. He is currently on bail in the U.S. for medical reasons, but has a sentencing hearing in June.

A fifth person, Michael Grim of Indiana, served almost six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to mistakenly bringing ammo in his checked luggage for a vacation.

In a recent statement, the Turks and Caicos government said that it "reserves the right to enforce its legislation and all visitors must follow its law enforcement procedures."

The State Department has reissued a warning to American tourists traveling to Turks and Caicos to "carefully check their luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons."

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