Louisa man arrested in Turks and Caicos for alleged ammunition possession to appear in court for plea hearing

U.S. Congressmen, Turks and Caicos’ government meet to discuss five Americans facing jail time

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Tyler Wenrich, a Lousia County man facing a minimum 12-year prison sentence in Turks and Caicos for allegedly bringing ammunition onto the island, has a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.

According to ABC News, a plea hearing for 31-year-old Wenrich is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, at 10 a.m. EST. While his lawyer does not expect a sentence to be handed down during this hearing, the judge could decide to rule on Wenrich’s case on Tuesday.

Wenrich was initially arrested on April 23 after two hunting bullets were reportedly found in his backpack on the island of Turks and Caicos. He was there during a cruise, with family saying he was celebrating a friend’s bachelor party.

He has been in custody abroad since his arrest, facing a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison in accordance with Turks and Caicos’ laws regarding firearms and ammunition.

Four other Americans currently face similar sentences for the same sorts of charges. In response, a U.S. Congressional Delegation reportedly visited with the Governor’s Office of Turks and Caicos on Monday.

One of these Americans — Bryan Hagerich of Oklahoma — reportedly told ABC News that the delegation was “livid” at both the State Department and Embassy for how these cases have been handled, particularly that of Floridian tourist Sharitta Shanise Grier.

ABC News said claims have been made that Grier was “shackled to a desk for three days” in a police station following her arrest.

U.S. Representative Bob Good (VA-5) spoke with Wenrich while in Turks and Caicos. He posted the following statement to X, formerly known as Twitter:

“This past weekend, I met with my constituent, Tyler Wenrich, and other Americans who are currently being detained in Turks and Caicos after ammunition was allegedly found in their luggage. My colleagues and I are very concerned about consequences of recent legal changes that have already resulted in multiple American tourists being arrested, charged and threatened with lengthy prison sentences for accidental and non-threatening offenses.

We had a productive visit with Turks and Caicos government officials and business leaders who understand the economic impact of US visitors to their islands and we hope it will result in positive outcomes as Tyler’s next hearing is tomorrow. As his Congressman, I will continue to do everything in my power to see him reuinted with his family in Virginia.”

Rep. Bob Good (VA-5)

U.S. Senators John Fetterman (D-PA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) headed the delegation. Fetterman provided the following statement regarding this visit:

“We made the trip to Turks and Caicos to meet with officials and facilitate the return of five American citizens being held because they inadvertently had ammunition in their luggage – including one Pennsylvanian, Bryan Hagerich. 

We had the opportunity to meet each of the detained Americans, who were in good spirits but want to go home. These people did not set out to break the law. They are people who made a mistake and now face substantial time in prison because of it. As we articulated to TCI officials, I urge the court to be lenient when addressing this case.

I would like to thank the TCI officials who met with us. I left these meetings optimistic that we can get this resolved and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and TCI officials to bring these American citizens home to their families.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania)

The Governor’s Office of Turks and Caicos shared a statement with ABC News Monday night following the delegation’s visit. In this statement, the office said the island’s government has “strict penalties [for firearms/ammunition violations] in place to serve and protect” those who live there.

The full statement can be read here on Facebook, but a portion of it is shown below:

“The Governor and Premier appreciated that the circumstances for US nationals who find themselves in this position can be difficult but were aware that US officials are providing consular support to each of the individuals,” the office’s statement reads. “They noted that the Turks and Caicos Islands law enforcement agencies apply professional standard operating procedures for processing matters through the legal system and that they will investigate any concerns where it was felt standards were not met.

The Governor and Premier noted the prohibited items of ammunition were not identified at US departure screening; and the responsibility of travellers to ensure their baggage is free of firearms and/or ammunition prior to travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The Governor’s Office of Turks and Caicos

The office added that the sentencing judge ultimately has discretion regarding whether or not the mandatory minimum is actually enforced.

“Where the court finds there are exceptional circumstances, the sentencing judge does have 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,” the statement reads.

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