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US Tourist ‘s Ammunition Blunder Sparks 12-Year Prison Threat in Turks & Caicos



Ryan (left) and Valeria Watson (Right) and their children are on the sides. In the corner Police get him in his custody.

US Tourist Ryan Watson, an Oklahoma man, and his wife, Valerie, embarked on a trip to Turks and Caicos to celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday on April 7. Joining them were two friends, also marking their 40th birthdays, setting the stage for what should have been a joyful getaway.

However, their vacation took a distressing turn when airport staff made a startling discovery during luggage inspection. Concealed within the couple’s carry on bags was a zip close bag containing bullets. This alarming find brought their holiday to an abrupt halt.

US Tourist Ryan Watson swiftly clarified that the ammunition was intended for hunting and had been inadvertently packed. Despite his explanation, the seriousness of the situation loomed large due to the stringent laws of Turks and Caicos.

In Turks and Caicos, possessing firearms or ammunition without proper authorization carries grave consequences. Even if Ryan’s possession of the bullets was unintentional, the law may still demand a harsh penalty.


The possibility of facing a court imposed mandatory 12-year sentence casts a dark cloud over. What was meant to be a celebratory occasion. US Tourist Ryan and Valerie find themselves confronted with the daunting reality of navigating a foreign legal system.

In an interview with NBC Boston conducted last week and aired after their initial court appearance on Tuesday. US Tourist Ryan Watson explained, “They were hunting ammunition rounds that I use for whitetail deer.”

The couple now grapples with the uncertainty of their future as they await the outcome of legal proceedings in a foreign land far from the familiar comforts of home.

I recognized them and I thought, ‘Oh man, what a bonehead mistake that I had no idea that those were in there. US Tourist Ryan Watson expressed remorsefully, reflecting on the discovery of the bullets in their luggage.


Following the unsettling find, the couple found themselves swiftly detained and charged with possession of ammunition. Authorities confiscated their passports and outlined the severe penalties they could face under the law.

“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 and this is such an innocent mistake,” Valerie Watson shared during the interview. He is conveying her deep concern over the situation.

US tourist Ryan Watson and his wife Valerie (pictured together arriving at their Turks and Caicos vacation) were arrested on April 11 after Turks and Caicos airport staff found ammunition in Ryan's luggage.
US tourist Ryan Watson and his wife Valerie (pictured together arriving at their Turks and Caicos vacation) arrested on April 11. After Turks and Caicos airport staff found ammunition in Ryan’s luggage.

In a harrowing turn of events, the charges against Valerie dropped, providing a glimmer of hope amidst the distress. After the court hearing, she is able to return home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Where she was joyfully reunited with her two young children.

As the legal proceedings continue, US Tourist Ryan Watson remains in Turks and Caicos, grappling with the uncertainty of his fate. And the daunting prospect of a lengthy prison sentence hanging over him. The couple’s ordeal serves as a stark reminder of the profound consequences. That can arise from even the most inadvertent of mistakes.

“Our goal is to get Ryan home because we can’t be a family without Dad.” Valerie emphasized, highlighting the profound impact of Ryan’s absence on their family unit.


The couple also opened up about the financial strain stemming from an unexpectedly prolonged stay in Turks and Caicos. “This is something that we may never recover from,” Ryan lamented, acknowledging the significant financial burden. They face as a result of the extended trip.

In a sobering reminder of the seriousness of the situation, the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a warning to travelers in September. The advisory highlighted a strict law in Turks and Caicos that strongly prohibits the possession of firearms or ammunition. Turks and Caicos, an overseas British territory southeast of the Bahamas, is a popular vacation destination. It is famous for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture.

As the Watsons continue to navigate this distressing ordeal, their story serves as a cautionary tale for travelers. Underscoring the importance of being aware of and complying with the laws and regulations of any destination visited.

The message from the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas is clear travelers need to be aware that simply declaring a weapon in their luggage. When flying with an airline does not give them permission to bring. That weapon into the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Doing so will lead to arrest.


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

This serves as a stern warning to anyone considering bringing firearms or ammunition into TCI, highlighting the serious consequences that could follow. It’s crucial for travelers to understand and abide by the laws of the destination they are visiting to avoid legal troubles and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

A similar incident occurred involving another American, Bryan Hagerich, from Pennsylvania. While attempting to board a flight out of Turks and Caicos in February, airport authorities discovered ammunition in his luggage. Hagerich claimed he accidentally left it in his bag.

Hagerich, who was on a family vacation with his wife and two young children, has now found himself stuck in the country for 70 days. He spent eight days behind bars before being able to post bail.


Reflecting on his ordeal, Hagerich expressed the intense fear and uncertainty he faced. “It’s incredibly scary. You know, you just don’t know what the next day may bring. You know, what path this may take,” he shared with NBC Boston.

Hagerich’s story serves as another stark reminder of the strict enforcement of firearms and ammunition laws in Turks and Caicos. It underscores the importance of travelers being vigilant and aware of the regulations of any destination they visit to avoid finding themselves in similarly troubling circumstances.

Bryan Hagerich, a former professional baseball player from Pennsylvania, found himself entangled in a nightmare while on a family vacation in Turks and Caicos. During a routine luggage check before boarding a flight out of the country in February, airport authorities discovered ammunition in his bags. Hagerich admitted that he had accidentally left it there.

Forced to prolong his stay in Turks and Caicos, Hagerich, along with his wife and two young children, has now been stranded in the country for 70 agonizing days. His ordeal took a particularly distressing turn when he spent eight days behind bars before managing to secure bail.


Reflecting on his experience, Hagerich expressed the profound impact the situation has had on him and his family. “You know, it’s certainly a lot different than packing your bags and going away with your family for a few days. It’s been the worst 70 days of my life,” he shared, highlighting the immense stress and hardship they have endured.

Despite his background as a professional baseball player, having been drafted by the Florida Marlins in the MLB 2007 June Amateur Draft from the University of Delaware, Hagerich finds himself facing a completely different kind of challenge.

With his trial set to begin on May 3, Hagerich’s future remains uncertain as he navigates the complexities of the legal system in a foreign land. His story serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of understanding and adhering to the laws and regulations of any destination to avoid unforeseen and potentially devastating consequences.