Tourist Faces Potential 12-Year Sentence For Unintentionally Bringing Ammo To Turks and Caicos

An American tourist is facing a potential minimum 12-year prison sentence in Turks and Caicos after he allegedly flew into the country with ammunition unintentionally.

Earlier in April, 40-year-old Ryan Watson of Oklahoma was on a trip to Turks and Caicos with wife Valerie and headed home when airport staff said they found ammunition in his luggage. According to a GoFundMe page that was set up to help Ryan and Valerie:

The Watsons were in Turks and Caicos with multiple couples celebrating several of their friend’s 40th birthdays. They had their lives turned upside down when they tried to return home, as local airport security found four rounds of ammunition unknowingly left in a duffel bag from a deer hunting trip. It was not noticed by TSA when leaving America. Now, they are facing a legal system that is unfamiliar, daunting, and expensive that operates differently than the American Justice System.

The potential penalty starts at a 12-year prison sentence, according to the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas. The embassy posts the following warning on its website:

Firearms, ammunition, and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms related laws. The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon is a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.

We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI and will result in your arrest.

We strongly encourage you to carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing for TCI. If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody. You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.

Valerie was not charged, and she is now home in the U.S. Ryan initially remained in the local jail, but has now been released—but he’s not out of the woods yet.

Tourist Faces Potential 12-Year Sentence For Unintentionally Bringing Ammo To Turks and Caicos

Valerie Watson is home in Oklahoma now, while husband Ryan is still in Turks and Caicos facing the islands’ legal system. [GoFundMe]

According to the family, Ryan must now remain in Turks and Caicos, checking in with police twice a week as he begins a journey through the legal system.

CBS News says it reached out to government representatives of the Turks and Caicos, who confirmed to CBS that “even if extenuating circumstances are found to be present, the judge is required to mandate prison time.” A similar recent case saw a U.S. man serve six months in prison, says CBS. which is a whole lot better than 12 years, but still a very tough sentence for loose rounds in your bag that even TSA missed with its scanners.

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