A 72-Year Old Retired Teacher With Terminal Cancer Is The Latest American Facing 12 Years In Prison For Bullets In His Luggage In Turks & Caicos

Michael Evans Turks & Caicos
Magnetic Media

If you’re traveling to Turks & Caicos, double check your luggage.

Last week, it was reported that an Oklahoma man is facing 12 years in prison in the island country after four bullets were discovered in his luggage while attempting to leave from vacation.

Ryan Watson, a 40-year old avid hunter, says that the bullets were mistakenly left in his suitcase from a recent hunting trip, and TSA somehow missed them as he was leaving the United States.

But Watson’s not the only one who’s learning the hard way about the strict gun laws in Turks & Caicos: A 72-year old retired school teacher from Texas pleaded guilty last week to illegal possession of ammunition, and is facing the same mandatory minimum of 12 years behind bars on the island.

Michael Lee Evans was arrested back in December after he was found to have 7 rounds of 9mm ammunition in his luggage as he was leaving the Providenciales International Airport. Evans was granted a $20,000 bail and allowed to return to the United States due to a medical condition, because he’s reportedly suffering from terminal cancer and requires round-the-clock medical care.

But he will have to return to the island to be sentenced in June after pleading guilty during a video hearing on April 24.

Evans and his wife were in Turks & Caicos to renew their wedding vows when he was caught with the ammunition.

The 72-year old is one of four currently facing charges under the island’s strict new laws passed in 2022 which mandate a minimum sentence of 12 years for anyone found in possession of ammunition, were facing lengthy prison sentences and had their passports seized.

Previously, Americans were allowed to pay a fine, but a recent order issued by the court on the island requires that even tourists visiting or leaving the island found in possession of ammunition are subject to mandatory imprisonment. And the court is required to oppose the mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years, except in circumstances where the court finds that there are exceptional circumstances, in which case the court must still impose both a sentence of imprisonment and a fine that are “proportionally consistent” with the circumstances.

So basically what that all means is, there’s no way they can let you off with just a fine: They have to send you to prison, although it could be less than 12 years.

Another American, Michael Grim of Indiana, recently served six months in prison after mistakenly bringing ammo in his luggage while on vacation, and a 30-year old EMT from Virginia was arrested on April 20 after just two bullets were found in his suitcase after being on the island for less than a day.

The US Embassy released a travel alert back in September 23 to alert tourists of the country’s strict laws:

“Firearms, ammunition, and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms related laws. The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon is a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years.

We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI and will result in your arrest.

We strongly encourage you to carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing for TCI. If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody. You are subject to TCI laws and must follow local law enforcement procedures.”

Just a terrible situation all around.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock