An American Tourist Faces 12 Years In Prison After Bringing Bullets Into Turks And Caicos

( — An Oklahoma man is behind bars in the Turks and Caicos Islands, facing up to 12 years in prison after he inadvertently brought hunting ammo in his luggage on a long weekend trip with his wife.

Ryan and Valerie Watson traveled to Turks and Caicos with two friends for a long weekend in early April to celebrate his 40th birthday.

However, the birthday trip turned sour when airport security found a baggie containing hunting ammo in Ryan’s carry-on bag. The Watsons were both questioned and later charged with possession of ammunition under Turks and Caicos’ strict gun laws.

After their initial court hearing, Valerie Watson was informed that she would not be charged. Authorities released her and returned her passport, allowing her to return home to Oklahoma City, where the couple live with their two young children.

In an interview after his initial court hearing, Ryan said he had no idea the ammo, which he used for deer hunting, was still in the carry-on.

Valerie said their long weekend went from “a dream vacation to a nightmare.”

Turks and Caicos passed an amendment in 2022 that imposed stricter penalties for the possession of firearms or ammunition, increasing the mandatory minimum sentence to 12 years.

In September, the US Embassy in the Bahamas warned potential travelers about Turks and Caicos’ strict penalties for the possession of weapons or ammunition.

In its warning, the Embassy reminded travelers that declaring a firearm or ammunition with an airline would still not permit them to bring the items into the Turks and Caicos Islands and would “result in your arrest.”

The warning cautioned travelers that if they were arrested, Embassy officials would be unable to secure their release.

Ryan Watson is not the first American charged under Turks and Caicos’ strict law.

In February, Pennsylvania resident Bryan Hagerich was charged after ammo was found in his bag.

Hagerich is on bail in the islands, awaiting trial. He described his eight days in a Turks and Caicos jail as some of the “darkest” and “hardest” days of his life.

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