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American arrested in Turks and Caicos over 9 mm ammo found in bag sentenced to time served and $9,000 fine

Another American sentenced in Turks & Caicos
American avoids 12 years in Turks and Caicos prison for ammo in luggage 03:09

Another American who was arrested in the Turks and Caicos Islands for possessing ammunition was sentenced to time served and a $9,000 fine on Tuesday, officials said. Tyler Wenrich was facing a potential mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison for ammunition charges in the British territory.

Wenrich was given a sentence of three weeks in jail, which was covered by the time he served before he was released on bail, the Turks and Caicos government said in a statement. He will be free to leave the islands after he pays the fine, which he has to do by Sunday, local media reported.

The Virginia EMT and father was arrested in April after two 9 mm rounds were found in his backpack as he was trying to board a cruise ship. He pleaded guilty last week. Wenrich left court with his wife Jeriann Wenrich and said he was relieved his ordeal was coming to an end.

"A weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my wife's, and I'm glad that I get to go home and be with my son again," Wenrich told Magnetic Media.

He said his imprisonment was terrible.

"The conditions were rough," Wenrich said. "... I don't know how other prisons are, but it was emotional not knowing where this was going to go, you know, just trying to get through each day."

He said he was emotional during Tuesday morning's hearing as the judge handed down the sentence. Justice Davidson Baptiste found exceptional circumstances in the case justified not imposing the mandatory minimum sentence, according to the government's statement.

"It's up and down cause he goes through everything," Wenrich said. "You don't know if it's going one way or the other as he's reading through everything, so tearing up every time I heard '18-month-old son,' and now I'm just relieved at the outcome."

He's planning to fly back to Virginia on Thursday.

Tyler Wenrich
Tyler Wenrich CBS News

Several American tourists have been arrested in recent months over ammunition found in their luggage. The arrests caught the attention of members of Congress, who sought lenient sentences for the Americans.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said he was pleased with Tuesday's sentence.

"Tyler never sought to break the law, so I'm deeply relieved that the justice system chose fairness and leniency over a 12-year prison sentence," the Democrat said in a statement.

Wenrich is the second American to be sentenced this month. Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania received a yearlong suspended sentence and was fined $6,700 on Friday over 20 rifle rounds found in his checked bag in February.

Hagerich was out on bail most of the time as his case moved through the court system, but he wasn't allowed to return home while on bail. Hours after he and his wife left his sentencing hearing on the islands, he was back in Pennsylvania hugging his two children.

"It's the hardest time of my life," Hagerich told CBS News Pittsburgh on Friday. "You know, 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, but to have these guys here right now, this is everything."

Hagerich became roommates with a third American facing similar charges. Ryan Watson, a father of two from Oklahoma, was arrested in April as he and his wife were trying to leave the islands when four rounds of hunting ammunition were found in his carry-on bag.

Watson pleaded guilty Tuesday and was expected to be sentenced next month, his wife Valerie Watson told CBS News. Before Wenrich's sentencing, she said she was hopeful for her husband after seeing how Hagerich's case was resolved.

"It is really hard with him being there," Valerie Watson told CBS News senior transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave. "The kids are doing OK. They really struggle at times."

American set to be sentenced after ammunition was found in luggage in Turks and Caicos 03:45

Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, who was part of a congressional delegation that went to the islands to meet with officials about the Americans, called Tuesday's sentence "another step in the right direction."

"I again encourage TCI to address the unintended consequences of their law to prevent this from happening again," the Republican said on social media.

Meanwhile, Sharitta Grier, a grandmother from Florida, has a court date scheduled for July after she allegedly had two bullets in her carry-on bag when she was going home from a surprise Mother's Day vacation.

A fifth American who was also recently charged was allowed to return home for medical reasons.

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