Virginia EMT is the latest US tourist arrested in Turks and Caicos after ammunition allegedly found in luggage

A 30-year-old American man was arrested in Turks and Caicos over the weekend after ammunition was reportedly found in his luggage, CBS News has learned. the last of several Americans who have found themselves in a similar situation on British soil in recent months.

Tyler Wenrich was taken into custody after officials allegedly found two bullets in his backpack on April 20 as he was about to board a cruise ship.

Possession of a firearm or ammunition is prohibited in Turks and Caicos, but tourists previously could often simply pay a fine. However, in February a court order determined that even tourists who wanted to leave the country should face a prison sentence.

The Virginia EMT and father now face the potential of a mandatory minimum prison sentence of up to 12 years.

“I feel, as a very honest mistake, that 12 years is absurd,” his wife, Jeriann Wenrich, told CBS News on Friday.

Wenrich says her husband had been on the island less than a day when the arrest occurred.

“My son is only 18 months old, and I just don't want him to grow up without a father,” Wenrich said.

At least four American tourists now face the possibility of lengthy prison sentences on similar charges, including a 72-year-old man, Michael Lee Evans, who was arrested in December and pleaded guilty to possessing seven rounds of ammunition. He appeared in court via video conference link on Wednesday. Evans is currently out on bail in the US on medical grounds and has a sentencing hearing in June. A fifth person, Michael Grim of Indiana, spent nearly six months in jail after pleading guilty to accidentally packing ammunition in his checked luggage on a vacation.

Ryan Watson, a 40-year-old father of two from Oklahoma, was released from a Turks and Caicos prison on $15,000 bond on Wednesday. After a birthday vacation with his wife, he was arrested on April 12 when airport security reportedly found four rounds of hunting ammunition in his carry-on luggage earlier this month.

His wife, Valerie Watson, flew home to Oklahoma on Tuesday after learning she would not be charged. However, as part of his bail agreement, her husband must remain on the island and check into the Grace Bay police station every Tuesday and Thursday while his case continues.

In an interview Friday from the island, Ryan Watson told CBS News that he checked the bag before packing it.

“I opened it up and wiggled it a little bit, I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything,” he said.

TSA also acknowledged that agents missed the ammunition when Watson's bag was checked at the Will Rogers World Airport checkpoint in Oklahoma City on April 7.

In a statement to CBS News Friday, a TSA spokesperson said that four rounds of ammunition were not found in Watson's bag “during the security checkpoint.”

The spokesperson said there was “an error that the agency is addressing internally.”

“It was my fault,” Ryan Watson said. “It was very innocent. And I just pray that, sympathy and compassion, because there was no criminal intent.”

In a statement Friday, the Turks and Caicos government said it “reserves the right to enforce its laws and all visitors must follow law enforcement procedures.”

Following the CBS News report on Ryan Watson earlier this week, the State Department said issued another warning to American tourists traveling to Turks and Caicos to “carefully check their luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons.”

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