American arrested in Turks and Caicos for ammo in bag gets suspended sentence

One of the several Americans facing a minimum 12-year sentence for having ammunition in the Turks and Caicos Islands will be heading home Friday after a judge gave him a 52-week suspended sentence, according to WPXI and the Bring Our Families Home Campaign.

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Bryan Hagerich, of Pennsylvania, was detained while trying to fly home from a vacation in February after authorities found hunting ammunition that his family said was inadvertently left in his luggage, WPXI reported. Bringing a firearm or ammunition into Turks and Caicos carries a minimum sentence of 12 years, officials said.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for Bring Our Families Home Campaign, said in a series of social media posts that a judge on the islands determined Friday that sentencing Hagerich to 12 years behind bars “would be arbitrary.” Instead, he was given a suspended sentence of 52 weeks and a $6,700 fine, Franks said.

“He will be released shortly,” he added.

Hagerich is expected to board a flight Friday afternoon to Pittsburgh, according to WPXI. The husband and father of two was held in Turks and Caicos for more than 100 days.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., was among the lawmakers who pushed for Hagerich’s release. In a statement shared Friday on social media, he said he was “overjoyed” to learn that Hagerich would soon be home.

However, he added, “this terrifying situation should have never happened to him, or the four other Americans still awaiting sentencing.”

“As the Turks and Caicos government works to handle future cases, the British territory must ensure the safety and wellbeing of U.S. tourists,” he said. “I won’t rest until Americans can once again set foot on their islands without putting their livelihoods at risk.

Four others await sentencing in Turks and Caicos: Tyler Wenrich, Sharitta Grier, Michael Lee Evans and Ryan Tyler Watson.

Last year, the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas warned people not to bring firearms, ammunition or other weapons into Turks and Caicos due to strict firearms laws. Officials warned that even if a traveler declared a weapon in their luggage to an airline carrier, that “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,” embassy officials said. “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.”

Authorities urged people to ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy “immediately” if they are arrested or detained abroad.

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