American pleads guilty to taking ammunition into Turks and Caicos

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An American accused of taking ammunition into Turks and Caicos has pleaded guilty to the charges against him.

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CNN reported Tyler Wenrich is one of five Americans who were being detained for having ammunition illegally in the British island territory.

The other four have been identified as Sharitta Grier, Michael Lee Evans, Bryan Hagerich and Ryan Tyler Watson.

They each face a minimum of 12 years behind bars.

Wenrich, who is from Virginia, was arrested with two 9mm rounds in his bag as he attempted to board a Royal Caribbean Cruise after a beach excursion. He had used the bag to go to a shooting range before his trip.

The cruise was a bachelor party trip taken in April, WWBT reported.

He is set to be sentenced on May 28.

Sen. Markwane Mullin, R-Okla., led a bipartisan delegation to visit the island and try to secure the release of the jailed Americans, but it was unable to get them out of custody.

“Unfortunately, despite our willingness to work with Turks and Caicos officials to get our constituents home, we were not able to find a path forward today,” Mullin said, according to CNN. “At this point, well-intentioned American citizens are facing a dozen years in prison all for unknowingly having one or two bullets in their luggage.”

Mullin told CNN that a sentencing hearing is scheduled for Hagerich on Friday.

Hagerich’s wife told WPXI, “This was an honest mistake, anybody can make an honest mistake.” It was hunting ammunition left in his bag.

“That’s a bag my husband has used numerous times on hunting trips, and going to hunting camp, and it was just leftover in a secure pouch and it was just forgotten about, and you know, people make mistakes, and in this sense, the crime just doesn’t fit the sentencing and the repercussions of this,” Ashley Hagerich told WPXI.

Turks and Caicos’ attorney general said the 12-year minimum sentence could be lowered and fines can be adjusted in “exceptional circumstances.”

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., was part of the delegation with Mullin. He told WWBT, “What we’re asking is them to receive time served, maybe a fine, promise not to return to the country, perhaps a public apology, something along that nature, and to be released.”

The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a travel alert last year telling travelers not to bring ammunition into the country, Fox News reported.

The agency issued a reminder last month, writing:

“Carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing from the United States. Firearms, ammunition (including stray bullets), and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms-and-ammunition-related laws. The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can result in a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.”

Embassy officials said that while you may declare to an airline that a weapon is in your luggage, that does not permit you to bring a weapon into Turks and Caicos.

“If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, even inadvertently, we will not be able to secure your release from custody,” the embassy said. “You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.”

Despite not being able to secure a person’s release, if you are arrested or detained you’re told to ask authorities to contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.

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