Arcadia Man Charged With Carrying Ammo In Turks And Caicos

The U.S. Embassy is warning Americans to check their bags for guns and ammunition if they are traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands. An Oklahoma tourist was arrested on the islands earlier this month after authorities found hunting ammo in his carry-on bag.

Thursday, April 25th 2024, 4:14 pm

By: News 9, Deanne Stein


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The U.S. Embassy is warning Americans to check their bags for guns and ammunition if they are traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

An Oklahoma tourist was arrested on the islands earlier this month after authorities found hunting ammo in his carry-on bag. The charge carries a mandatory minimum 12-year sentence.

“It's hard to believe that this is what the possible outcome could be for that,” said Valerie Watson, whose husband is charged with carrying ammunition.

Valerie and her husband Ryan took the trip to Turks and Caicos with friends as part of a birthday celebration. “It's pretty much beautiful waters and pretty beaches,” Valerie said. “It was really good, great food, great people.”

A great trip until it wasn’t. Their vacation memories were soon overshadowed when they were arrested while trying to leave the islands. “I didn't know what they were looking for, they kept searching the bag,” Valerie recalls. “Then eventually, they pulled out a little zipped lock bag, I could only see something golden.”

It turned out to be four rounds of ammunition. “Our hearts definitely skipped a beat at that moment,” she said.

Valerie said her husband uses the bag for hunting trips and didn’t realize the ammo was there. “It just kind of spiraled from there,” Valerie said. “The officer came, and he looked at our tickets and said you aren't going to be on this flight.”

The couple was arrested for possessing ammunition. Possessing ammunition is prohibited in Turks and Caicos. Tourists often just paid a fine until February, when a court order mandated even tourists leaving the country are subject to prison time. “We were pretty scared honestly, just not knowing how serious this offense is.”

After 10 days, Valerie was released and allowed to come home. She was welcomed by a group of family, friends, and her two young children. “Finally getting to hold them in my arms was really something special,” she said.

While Valerie says they are coping with a new normal at home, her husband remains on the islands, charged and facing possible prison time. “I think that we've got a lot to figure out and we'll see where it goes from there,” Valerie said.

This week, Ryan was released on bail but not allowed to leave the country. He has an attorney working on his case and his next hearing is set for June 7. 

Warning issued on Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy Nassau:

APRIL 24, 2024
We urge all travelers going to the Turks and Caicos Islands:
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.
We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into the Turks and Caicos Islands and will result in your arrest. TSA screening in the United States may not identify ammunition in your baggage; it is your responsibility to ensure your baggage is free of ammunition and/or firearms.
If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, even inadvertently, we will not be able to secure your release from custody.  You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.
Before traveling to TCI, please review the updated TCI Travel.State.Gov  page to learn more  about restrictions on traveling with firearms.
If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.
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