Tyler Wenrich, a Virginia resident, was released from a Turks and Caicos jail after serving three weeks in jail for possession of ammunition, avoiding the island nation’s mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison.

Wenrich, who was traveling with his family on a Royal Caribbean cruise at the time of his arrest, was released following the arrival of a U.S. Congressional delegation that included Virginia Congressman Bob Good advocating for Wenrich and four additional Americans held in Turks & Caicos due to its stringent laws.

Congressman Good said the group “advocated for the release of 5 Americans, including Tyler Wenrich of the 5th District, who face 12 years in prison for accidental, non-threatening offenses.”

US Congressional delegation at the Governor’s Office

Senator Mullin praised the Turks and Caicos government for releasing Wenrich with time served and a fine, saying, “This is welcome news, and another step in the right direction.” The governor went on to say he encourages the government to “address the unintended consequences of their law to prevent this from happening again.”

Wenrich, a Richmond, Virginia EMT and father of an 18-month-old, was arrested on April 20, 2024, when security personnel found two bullets in his luggage during a routine inspection at a checkpoint in Grand Turk. Despite his claims of being unaware of the ammunition in his bag, he was charged and detained.

Wenrich, who was sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise for a bachelor party, pleaded guilty of two counts of possession of ammunition for two 9mm rounds and was given a three-week jail sentence on May 28, which covered the amount of time he was already detained, allowing for his release.

Tyler Wenrich

Turks and Caicos Justice Davidson Baptiste was lenient on his sentencing, citing “exceptional circumstances.” He stated, “that enforcing the mandatory minimum would have been arbitrary and disproportionate, and would not serve the public interest.”

Wenrich also received a $9,000 fine, which must be paid before he can return to Virginia. ABC News reported that Wenrich’s wife was in Turks and Caicos for the sentencing and that the two plan to return to the U.S. on May 30.

The Royal Caribbean passenger’s arrest drew national attention to the strict regulations regarding firearms and ammunition in the Turks and Caicos Islands with the Governor of Turks and Caicos, Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, and Premier Charles Washington Misick emphasizing the importance of upholding local laws when traveling.

Michael Lee Evans of Texas, Sharitta Grier of Florida, Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania, and Ryan Tyler Watson of Oklahoma were also previously arrested for having ammunition in their luggage, not flagged by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before leaving the U.S. to visit Turks and Caicos. The TSA permits unloaded firearms and ammunition in checked luggage.

Grand Turk Cruise Center Terminal (Photo Credit: Ihor Koptilin)

The full delegation meeting with the government of the Caribbean nation made up of 40 islands included Senator John Fetterman and Congressman Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, Oklahoma Congressman Josh Brecheen and Senator Markwayne Mullin, and Texas Congressman Michael Cloud, Florida Secretary of State Cory Bird, U.S. State Department’s Angela Kerwin, and Jason Crosby of the U.S. Embassy Nassau Chargé d’Affairs.

Discuss at the Cruise Boards: Royal Caribbean Guest Arrested in Grand Turk

The Turks and Caicos Islands’ Governor’s Office, which met with the delegation, said it “cannot intervene on ongoing legal cases before the courts,” but did add, “the sentencing judge does have the discretion, under the law, to impose a custodial sentence and a fine that are fair and just in the circumstances of each case rather than impose the mandatory minimum.”

Wenrich’s arrest underscores the importance of travelers knowing the contents of their luggage and understand the rules and laws of countries on cruise itineraries. 

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