American Couple Faces Charges for Carrying Ammo in Turks and Caicos

By: Beth Moreton | Published: May 01, 2024

A couple wanting to spend some time away with their friends and children in Turks and Caicos was hit with reality when they were arrested due to some ammo found in their duffel bag.

While the woman has since been released, her husband is still in custody and is facing a 12-year prison sentence.

Ryan and Valerie Watson Were Detained at the Airport

Many people go on holiday and expect it to be somewhat smooth sailing so they can enjoy their time away.

Passengers going through airport security. A security guard is holding a scanner against a man with his arms out. Two women are standing behind him. Suitcases are going around a carousel.

Source: wavebreakmedia_mirco/Freepik

However, The Oklahoman reported that Ryan and Valerie Watson were detained after some ammo was found in one of their duffel bags.


Watson’s Ammo Was From a Deer Hunting Trip

The bag belonged to Ryan, who maintains that it had been accidentally left there after one of his regular deer hunting trips.

Gold bullets on a table.

Source: Jay Rembert/Unsplash

The ammo apparently wasn’t flagged when going through airport security in the US and only became a problem when they reached Turks and Caicos.

The Turks and Caicos Law Was Changed

The law regarding ammo and firearms was changed in Turks and Caicos in 2022.

A view of Turks and Caicos with a pool with sun loungers and palm trees around the edge of it.

Source: John Prefer/Unsplash

NBC10 Boston reported that the law was changed to impose stricter rules for those carrying ammo and firearms, including stricter penalties and an extension of the minimum prison time.

The US Embassy in the Bahamas Warns Against Carrying Ammo

The US Embassy in the Bahamas warns against taking ammo when visiting Turks and Caicos.

The US Embassy building in the Bahamas. Palm trees and bushes surround it.

Source: @sash_bahm/X

They warn travelers to check their bags before heading to Turks and Caicos to ensure that no stray bullets or firearms are left in them.

The Watsons Were Left Without Their Passports and Children

While they were detained, USA Today reported Ryan and Valerie had their passports taken off them and were without their children.

Valerie and Ryan Watson are sitting on a green couch. He is wearing a baseball cap.

Source: Inside Edition/YouTube

This left them scared and worried, as they had no idea what was going to happen or if/when they would be able to return to their children.


Valerie Watson Was Released

Valerie was released from prison on April 23 because the bag was not hers.

Valerie Watson is reunited with her children, family, and friends. She is in the middle and is hugging them all.

Source: Inside Edition/YouTube

She was permitted to return to the couple’s home in Oklahoma while her husband remains in Turks and Caicos.


A GoFundMe Has Been Set Up

A friend of the couple has set up a GoFundMe page to cover any legal costs and help their family during this difficult time.

The GoFundMe page for Ryan and Valerie Watson. The amount of money raised at this point was $131,917.

Source: KOCO 5 News/YouTube

As of April 26, the page has raised over $186,000 of a $250,000 goal.


Bryan Hagerich Was Also Detained in Turks and Caicos

Ryan Watson isn’t the only person to be detained in Turks and Caicos for carrying ammo, as Bryan Hagerich was in the same position in February.

Bryan Hagerich during an interview.

Source: NewsNation/YouTube

Hagerich has also posted bail and will remain on the island until his court date, which is May 3.


Ryan Watson Was Released on Bail

CBS News reported that after two nights spent in jail, Ryan secured a $15,000 bond to get bail.

Ryan Watson is being interviewed in a hotel room. He is sitting next to a green chair, bed, and prints on the wall.

Source: TODAY/YouTube

However, he still has to stay in Turks and Caicos until his court date on June 7 and has to check in with the police every Tuesday and Thursday until then.


Ryan Watson Faces a Minimum 12-Year Prison Sentence

Even though Ryan maintains that he had forgotten the ammo was in the bag and hadn’t brought them to Turks and Caicos on purpose, he still faces a 12-year prison sentence.

The shadow of a person behind bars.

Source: Ye Jinghan/Unsplash

However, as he waits for his hearing on June 7, only time will tell what the outcome will be and what the impact will be on Ryan and the rest of the Watson family.


Turks and Caicos Government Released a Statement

The Turks and Caicos Government have released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, regarding carrying ammo and firearms on their island.

A post on X by the Turks and Caicos Government containing a screenshot of their statement regarding taking ammo and firearms into Turks and Caicos.

Source: @TCIG_Press/X

The statement said the Supreme Court must impose a minimum sentence on those breaking the law. However, this can be revised in exceptional circumstances.