American Tourist Facing 12 Years For Bringing Bullets To Turks And Caicos

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turks and caicos - American tourist
Photo Credit: "Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos" by James Willamor is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

A dream getaway turned into a real-life nightmare for an American tourist when he found himself facing a 12-year sentence in a Turks and Caicos jail. The reason? Authorities discovered four hunting ammunition rounds in his luggage.

American tourist looking at 12 years for four bullets

Ryan Watson, 40, flew to the Caribbean for his 40th birthday with his wife and friends, only to endure what he described as a “terrifying interrogation” and the threat of a lengthy prison sentence after the local officials found the ammo in his bag.

The Oklahoman couple and their friends “lived it up” in a luxury AirBnB with a private beach, hitting up all the tourist favorites before attempting to jet back home on April 11.

The end of their holiday took an unexpected turn at Howard Hamilton International Airport when security personnel discovered the rounds of ammunition, which were inadvertently packed in a duffel bag following a deer hunting trip.

Despite passing through the Will Rogers World Airport security checkpoints back in Oklahoma the bullets weren’t discovered until the Watson’s were boarding their return flight.

The blatant error has caused the Transport Security Administration (TSA) to initiate a review of its procedures at the same airport to find out how the ammunition managed to pass unnoticed.

Both Ryan and Valerie Watson were initially arrested and faced charges for the possession of ammunition—a serious offense in Turks & Caicos that carries a huge sentence of at least 12 years in prison.

“When I heard that, I immediately was terrified because I was like, we can’t both be in prison for 12 years. We have kids at home,” Valerie told WBTS-TV.

“And this is such an innocent mistake that we didn’t even know we weren’t – we didn’t even know it was there. So yeah, my immediate thought was our kids and them being, you know, parentless for, for that long.”

Valerie, who works as an elementary school teacher, had the charges against her dropped and has returned to Oklahoma to reunite with her children after her husband was deemed responsible.

After nearly two weeks of confinement, Watson was released on a $15,000 bond, according to the Royal Turks & Caicos Islands Police Force.

However, his freedom comes with strict conditions, including surrendering his passport and a mandatory check-in with the local police.

The ordeal has led to significant financial strain for Watson, now residing in a pricey $500-per-night AirBnB, while he awaits his next court appearance on June 7.

A GoFundMe campaign set up for the family has gathered nearly $210,000 to cover legal and living expenses.

Last year, the US Department of State issued a travel warning urging tourists to check for stray ammo in their luggage over the law.

Second American tourist detained in Turks and Caicos over ammo

Richmond, Virginia resident Tyler Scott Wenrich, 31, like Watson did not heed the warning, and also ended up in the custody of the Royal Turks & Caicos Islands Police Force last week.

Wenrich was on a cruise that docked on the island of Grand Turk and ammunition was discovered in his possession at a security check point.

He was also arrested and like Watson, is facing a 12 year prison sentence and is scheduled to appear in court on June 7.

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