American father returns to US after paying fine for bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

The Pennsylvania father of two was arrested in February.

ByMeredith Deliso and Stefan Joyce ABCNews logo
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Spared 12 years in foreign prison, Pennsylvania dad reunites with children
Bryan Hagerich faced a potential sentence of 12 years in prison for possessing ammunitoin in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

American Bryan Hagerich was spared a lengthy prison sentence under Turks and Caicos' strict gun laws and returned to the U.S. after paying a fine. The father of two was caught with ammunition in his baggage earlier this year.

A judge sentenced Hagerich on Friday to a suspended 52-week sentence with a fine of $6,700. Upon paying his fine, he was given his passport and returned to the United States without serving the sentence.

"The weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders," Bryan Hagerich said to reporters at Pittsburgh International Airport this evening after reuniting with family.

"I'm so thankful to be home here with my family and friends but we still have three other Americans in Turks and Caicos," Hagerich said.

"It was tough, the darkest days of my life," Hagerich said. "You think you're on this beautiful island but there's nothing beautiful about it when you don't have your family."

SEE ALSO | American man describes 'nightmare' after ammunition found in luggage in Turks and Caicos

When asked if he would visit Turks and Caicos again, he said, "I think we'll be looking for somewhere else."

Hagerich had faced a possible 12-year sentence, the country's minimum for possessing guns or ammunition, under a strict law in place aimed at addressing rising crime and gang violence. However, the judge found exceptional circumstances and that the mandatory minimum of 12 years was unjust and disproportionate to the crime committed.

After paying the fine, Hagerich told reporters he was "absolutely elated" to be returning home to his children.

The Pennsylvania father of two was arrested in February while returning home from a family vacation after ammunition was found in his checked luggage. He pleaded guilty to possession of 20 rounds of ammunition.

He told ABC News he forgot hunting ammunition was in his bag while he was traveling.

READ MORE | 4 Americans charged in Turks and Caicos, accused of bringing live ammo to the islands

"I'm a man of integrity, character," he told ABC News in an interview alongside his wife Ashley earlier this month. "I did not have intent in this."

Following the sentencing, Turks and Caicos Islands' premier said that "justice has been served as the law intended."

"As we have said, the Firearms Act includes consideration for exceptional circumstances and today's decision reflects our commitment to judicial independence along with upholding the law," Premier C. Washington Misick said in a statement. "Residents and visitors can be confident that the Turks and Caicos Islands are dedicated to safety and compassion as we protect the safety and rights of all."

Four other American tourists have been charged with possessing ammunition, three of whom remain released on bail on Turks and Caicos. Two of them are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty, including one who was able to return to the U.S. due to medical reasons.

Hagerich said they have "set some precedent" with his sentencing.

"My work, our work, is not done until all of them get home," he said.