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5th American arrested in Turks and Caicos for possession of ammo

FILE - Another American was arrested and now faces a potential 12-year prison sentence in Turks and Caicos after authorities said they discovered ammo in the U.S. traveller's luggage. BG033/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Yet another American tourist was arrested for carrying ammo into a Turks and Caicos airport on Monday, only a month after another U.S. citizen made international headlines for doing the same.

The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police told CBS News an American was arrested at the Howard Hamilton International airport, but they did not provide specifics about the traveller’s identity. The authority said ammunition was discovered inside the tourist’s luggage during a routine security inspection.

The unnamed person is the fifth American to be arrested for bringing ammunition into Turks and Caicos in the last six months, NBC reported.

Though it was already prohibited for citizens of Turks and Caicos to possess a firearm or ammunition, tourists were previously able to pay a fine. Now, even travellers may face a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison for bringing hunting ammunition into the archipelago.

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This latest incident comes just over a month after Ryan Watson of Oklahoma was arrested in Turks and Caicos when ammo was discovered in his carry-on.

When officials searched the bag belonging to Watson and his wife on April 12, they found a Ziploc bag of ammunition that Watson said was from hunting whitetail deer.

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He maintains he did not know the ammunition was in the bag.

Charges against Watson’s wife, Valerie, were dropped days after they were both arrested. She has since returned home to Oklahoma to be with their children.

Click to play video: 'U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after Turks and Caicos authorities find ammunition in luggage'
U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after Turks and Caicos authorities find ammunition in luggage

Waston’s charges still stand. He was granted bail after his hearing in April but must remain on the island as his case proceeds.

A week after Watson’s arrest, Virginia-based EMT Tyler Wenrich, 30, was also arrested when officials allegedly found two bullets in his luggage while the man was boarding a cruise ship on April 20.

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In December, 72-year-old Michael Evans of the U.S. was arrested in the British territory for carrying seven rounds of 9mm ammunition. He pleaded guilty and his sentencing is scheduled for June.

Two months later, American Bryan Hagerich was arrested, and later pleaded guilty to bringing 20 rifle rounds to Turks and Caicos.

Watson, Wenrich, Evans and Hagerich have all said bringing ammo into Turks and Caicos were honest mistakes.

In 2023, the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a reminder to American travellers saying not to bring firearms or ammunition to Turks and Caicos. The alert told Americans that “firearms, ammunition, and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands” and could be punishable by a minimum 12-year sentence.

“If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody,” the embassy declared.

The embassy’s alert came after another American citizen, Michael Grim, pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of ammunition and was sentenced to eight months in prison. Like Watson, Grim said he was unaware the ammo had been in his bag. (Judges in Turks and Caicos can consider “exceptional circumstances” when deciding jail sentences for possession charges, so that’s why Grim did not receive a 12-year sentence.)

In April, the U.S. Embassy issued another alert that asked Americans headed to Turks and Caicos to “carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing from the United States.”

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