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US Tourist Faces 12 Years in Caribbean Prison After Not Emptying Bag From Previous Trip

Turks and Caicos Islands Travel Safety
by Matador Creators Apr 25, 2024

The typical piece of luggage sees a lot go in and a lot come out. Ideally, the bag is emptied entirely after each trip, or at least before the next trip. If not, travelers may inadvertently end up bringing something prohibited into another country.

A man from Oklahoma, Ryan Watson, went on a vacation to Turks and Caicos and is now facing a 12-year prison sentence after he claims he unintentionally left bullets from a previous whitetail deer hunting trip in the luggage he brought to the island. Watson was visiting the island with his wife, Valerie, as well as friends for a 40th birthday celebration. Airport security searched Watson’s carry-on bag as they prepared to return home and found the Ziploc bag of ammunition, according to Global News. While both were initially detained and had their passports confiscated, Valerie has since been let go and is back at home with the couple’s kids.

Watson told Today that he thought his duffel bag was empty before leaving. He also said that he doesn’t recall putting the ammunition in the bag, “but somehow they ended up in there” — and stayed there through to the end of their trip for Turks and Caicos airport security to find.

Turks and Caicos has a 12-year minimum sentence for ammunition possession, regardless of whether there was criminal intent or not.

@nbc10boston We spoke to Ryan and Valerie Watson, who were arrested in Turks and Caicos Islands for allegedly violating the British Overseas Territory’s strict ammunition law. “This was a complete innocent mistake,” said Ryan, who remains there, unable to return to his kids over hunting rounds he says he’d forgotten to take out of his bag. More in the #linkinbio. #nbc10boston #caribbean #news #video #fyp ♬ original sound – NBC10 Boston

Watson isn’t the first American to be held for an ammunition charge in Turks and Caicos since the island tightened its firearms laws in 2022. Three Americans are currently on bail for ammunition or firearms charges, and eight prosecutions have taken place. Last September, the US embassy in the Bahamas issued a travel alert after Michael Grim was detained for ammunition possession.

Each country has its own laws and regulations. An infraction that could be a slap on the wrist in the United States may have drastically more severe consequences elsewhere. Drugs and weapons that are legal in the US top that list, though even something as small as a piece of food could lead to hefty fines. It can be easy to miss something small floating in a pocket or the bottom of a bag, but luckily there’s an easy way to avoid the issue entirely: always unpack completely and double check your bag is empty before packing for your next trip.

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