US tourist fined $9,000 for bullets in backpack

Headshot of Tyler Wenrich

Tyler Wenrich, an American tourist arrested in Turks and Caicos Islands, will avoid further jail time for bringing ammunition into the country.

He was instead ordered to a pay a $9,000 ( £7,040) fine, local media say.

Ammunition charges in Turks and Caicos carry a potential mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison.

Mr Wenrich is one of five American tourists who have been stuck in Turks and Caicos in recent months because ammunition was found in their luggage.

Mr Wenrich was arrested in April after two 9mm rounds were discovered in his backpack while he was trying to board a cruise ship.

He pleaded guilty to the charges last week.

Mr Wenrich has said the ammunition was left in his bag after he had gone to a gun range with friends.

In addition to the fine, Mr Wenrich was ordered to serve three weeks behind bars. That was covered by the time he spent had in prison before he was released on bail, local media reported.

He will be able to leave the British territory once he pays the fine.

Turks and Caicos passed an amendment mandating a 12-year minimum sentence at the end of 2022 following a "marked increase" in homicides in 2020 and 2021 that were associated with "international crime, gangs, the availability of firearms, and drug dealing and trafficking", according to the UK government.

As of Tuesday, no US citizen has received the mandatory minimum sentence for that offence.

Still, besides Mr Wenrich, four other American tourists have found themselves in similar circumstances in recent months.

Officials in Turks and Caicos found 20 rifle rounds in the checked bag of Bryan Hagerich, a US tourist from Pennsylvania, in February.

On Friday Mr Hagerich was fined $6,700 (£5,245) and given a one year suspended sentence. He said he was unaware the rounds were in his luggage.

He returned to the US last week.

"It's the hardest time of my life," Mr Hagerich told CBS News Pittsburgh after his return.

"Just being separated from your family as a father, as a provider. And to not be that figure in your family's life, it's a very tough pill to swallow."

Ryan Watson, an Oklahoma man arrested on the same charges in April, is expected to plead guilty this week after officials found four rounds of hunting ammunition in his carry-on bag.

Sharitta Grier, a Florida woman facing the same fate, will see her day in court in July after officials allegedly found two bullets in her carry-on bag.

A fifth American was recently allowed to return home for unspecified medical reasons.