Don Stephenson thought he was lucky back in 2011 when he got out of the Bahamas with just a few days in jail and a fine.
But he was watching the news Tuesday night and saw a story that sounded familiar.
"I heard them say three people had been arrested in the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos for having a bullet in their luggage. I looked at my wife," he recalled.
He had put his arrest in the Bahamas behind him, until he saw the story. Back in 2011, Stephenson had just wrapped up a vacation to the Bahamas. He was at the airport in Nassau, and he says a security officer looked over his bag and told him it was fine.
Stephenson began to walk away, but was called back within a minute or so.
"The guy said 'what's this?' I looked down and saw a bullet."
Stephenson thought it could be his, but wasn't sure. He told the officer to keep it and turned to walk away to catch plane back home.
"But he grabbed me and put handcuffs on me, and in a moment I was hauled off," he said.
Stephenson was taken to jail and told he was being charged with illegally having ammunition. He spent three days in jail.
Then he was brought to a judge. Stephenson says the judge was very sympathetic and told him she wanted to let him go, but couldn't.
And that's when something interesting happened. Here is how Stephenson described it:
"She said, well I have to impose a fine on you. I said okay, what's the fine? She said I was told it has to be $4,000. "I said that's fine, just get me out of here. I said but how am I going to get $4,000? I don't have anything with me. She says, can you call your wife and have her wire it to you? I said yes, but I haven't been able to use a phone. She picks up her phone, hands it to me, says call your wife, tell her to wire it to you, gives me an address, where to have it wired to. And then said, in the morning I will have an assistant take you out of jail, take you down to Western Union, get the money out, come back so you have it to pay the fine.' "
Don got the money the next day and paid the $4,000 fine. He was allowed to go home with no charges against him.
He thought nothing more of it, until these three other cases came to light.
"I could have been a victim of a shakedown, yes," he now says.
He has a lot of questions, and so does Senator Bill Nelson. He has been asking for an investigation by the State Department and has also asked the officials in the Bahamas to look into it all.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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