Pennsylvania man among Americans facing prison time over strict law at popular vacation destination

A Pennsylvania man is among other Americans facing more than a decade in prison due to a strict firearms and ammunition law in Turks and Caicos.

Bryan Hagerich, of Somerset County, has been stuck on the islands for more than 70 days, after he was detained while trying to fly home from a vacation in February.

“This was an honest mistake, anybody can make an honest mistake,” Bryan’s wife, Ashley Hagerich, told Channel 11 on Wednesday.

Ahead of boarding a flight home, Bryan unknowingly had hunting ammunition within his luggage, the family says.

In Turks and Caicos, firearms, ammunition and other weapons are not permitted, and those who violate the law face a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison.

“That’s a bag my husband has used numerous times on hunting trips, and going to hunting camp, and it was just leftover in a secure pouch and it was just forgotten about, and you know, people make mistakes, and in this sense, the crime just doesn’t fit the sentencing and the repercussions of this,” Ashley said.

Americans are permitted to fly within the United States with guns and ammunition if stored properly within their checked luggage. Last October, Channel 11 brought you a TSA demonstration on how to properly pack those items.

>>> TSA officials address record number of guns caught at Pittsburgh International Airport checkpoints

Bryan boarded his flight in the U.S. and entered Turks and Caicos without any issue.

“You’re not checked entering the country, you’re checked leaving the country, and that to me makes no sense,” Ashley said.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of State was asked about reports that numerous Americans are currently stuck on the islands and awaiting hearings.

NBC Boston recently spoke with Bryan as well as a couple from Oklahoma.

“We are aware of these reports and are continuing to engage and provide all appropriate consular assistance,” said Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel.

Patel could not confirm how many Americans are currently in this predicament but claimed that the department issued a security alert on this subject last September.

“We have reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Turks and Caicos, we’ve reached out to congressmen, senators, our governor, and we just keep getting told that there’s nothing anybody can do,” Ashley said. “And, in my mind, there has to be something that somebody can do.”

Ashley is urging people to contact their elected leaders and ask them to assist Bryan and the other detained Americans.

Meanwhile, he’s had to miss his two young kids’ birthdays while being stuck on the islands. He has posted bond and has retained an attorney, with a hearing set for next month.

“He’s our lifeline, he is salt of the earth, he couldn’t be a better husband, father, friend, son. He’s just everything, and to see him going through something so painful is just unimaginable.”

Ashley told us that the family had traveled to Turks and Caicos numerous times and never could have expected this.

“It’s a place that we love, we’ve been numerous times, we respect the culture, we respect the people there, we respect the island, and it’s a place that’s been so special for us, so for something like this to happen, just honestly seems so unimaginable.”

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