In 2013, the lives of Joel and Gracie Escamilla changed dramatically – and not for the better.
On the morning of October 18, the Mission, Texas residents were about to begin their workday as usual. Joel was a supervisor at a paper plant, and Gracie ran a medical billing company from home.
Gracie was still in bed that morning when her home was raided by armed Federal law enforcement officials. They jumped the six-foot fence around her house, pounded on the front door, and demanded to be let in.
“I was in bed. I heard a loud noise, you know, somebody was breaking into my house,” Gracie says. “I came out [and stood] on my staircase, with only my underwear, no top. Afraid. I thought it was an invasion. A home invasion.”
The Escamillas live in a region that is rife with home invasions. Residents even have reason to fear the police: the Hidalgo County sheriff’s federally funded Panama Unit has participated in illegal home invasions, which have resulted in convictions and long federal prison sentences for some officers.
With this in mind, Joel considered grabbing his gun but realized it wouldn’t do much good against the armed men. He let them in.
The Escamillas said the men were FBI agents, Gracie was not read her rights before being taken away, and she was not told to hire an attorney:
“They did not read my rights. They just said, ‘You cannot get anything. You can’t get your purse. Your phone. Nothing at all.’”
Gracie was suspected of involvement in a Medicare/Medicaid fraud conspiracy.
Yet, not one bit of possible evidence was taken from her home during that raid.
Gracie was held for five days without being allowed to communicate with anyone on the outside.
Bryan Preston of PJ Media covered her story, and described the state of limbo in which Gracie is currently stuck:
Gracie was originally slated to stand trial on identity theft and other associated allegations in December 2013. She says her attorney wanted her to strike a plea deal with the US attorney prosecuting her, for which she would get probation but serve no jail time. Gracie rejected that and insists that she is innocent of all the charges contained in the 21 pages of charges filed against her. Her trial has been delayed and is now in limbo as the court sorts out issues with her defense attorney.
Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. The fact is that at this point, Gracie has already paid a price for crimes she insists she did not commit. Since her arrest, Gracie has lost the medical billing business entirely. She was so trusted in her 30-year career in medical billing that a local hospital had employed her to audit its billing. Her arrest cost her that job too.
“I’ve never even been audited,” she says of the business she has now lost.
Gracie’s family is now on the hook for at least $25,000 in legal fees to defend Gracie against the charges, cash that they did not have readily available. The legal expenses forced the Escamillas to dip into Joel’s 401(k) retirement plan, a tough pill for parents who have funded their daughters’ educations and are just over a decade away from their own retirement, to swallow.
At the moment, more than half a year after her arrest, Gracie is free, sort of. Her trial is in an uncertain stasis, just hanging over her head. She cannot leave the southern federal district of Texas without permission. She cannot get back into the medical billing business that was her life for decades. She’s stuck. She says that she wanted to get her story out to clear her name and get all this behind her and her family.
Here, Preston and Bill Whittle discuss the case, and listen to Gracie describe her ordeal.
As Whittle says, “It’s beginning to look like the job of law enforcement is to protect the government from the people.”
Indeed it does, as more and more of our Constitutional rights are blatantly disregarded by “law” enforcement.
Gracie had been interviewed by authorities twice before. When they left a business card at her gate with a request that she call them, she complied. When investigators asked her to come in for interviews, she did. The raid followed five months of no contact from officials.
Gracie claims to be innocent of all charges, but her guilt or lack thereof is beside the point: was it really necessary to inflict such a violent, humiliating, and invasive raid on someone who is suspected of a non-violent crime?