America's Most Wanted | 

Irishwoman arrested in Spain faces extradition to the US after being profiled on TV show

Gracey and Jones were featured on a segment of the rebooted US TV show that featured a simulator estimating what the couple might look like today
Gracey and Jones were profiled on the hugely popular show America's Most Wanted

Gracey and Jones were profiled on the hugely popular show America's Most Wanted

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

An Irishwoman wanted by United States authorities as a suspect in the death of a scuba diver in Florida a decade ago is facing extradition from Spain after their case was featured on an American television show.

Alison Gracey, who is originally from Northern Ireland, was arrested alongside her husband Christopher Jones in April by regional police in the northern Basque town of Muskiz, near Bilbao.

Their case had been profiled only days earlier on Fox channel’s revival of “America’s Most Wanted”

Gracey appeared before a Spanish court on Thursday, where she refused to willingly accept extradition. A judge, a state prosecutor, and her defense lawyer briefly questioned her.

The decision on the extradition order is supported by Spanish prosecutors. The judge is expected to rule on it in the coming days.

Alison Gracey as she appeared in a 3D mock up on America's Most Wanted

Alison Gracey as she appeared in a 3D mock up on America's Most Wanted

The couple is wanted by US officials for the manslaughter of Aimee Rhoads, a scuba diver who died while on an excursion in a charter boat their company operated in the Florida Keys.

The boat sank on December 18, 2011, killing Rhoads and injuring others. The US Justice Department said that the “alleged unlawful and careless manner in which the defendants operated the boat caused the death of an individual scuba diver”.

Gracey denied any wrongdoing before the Spanish court, saying that she did not want to be handed over to US officials “because we don’t believe we are guilty. We believe we are innocent.

“I was a partner with my husband and we had two other American partners in the business,” she said. “But me and my husband, we never worked in the business,” she told the Spanish court.

The extradition proceedings are being handled separately for Jones, who has also been in custody since the couple’s arrest in April. He and Gracey are also accused of making false statements to the US Coast Guard about the ownership of the boat.

The couple was not in the US at the time of Rhoads’ death. They were arrested on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in 2015, but they avoided extradition when they left the Dutch island.

According to the Fox TV programme, they were last seen in France in 2017.

The show featured a simulator estimating what the couple might look like today.

"She's blonde, but she may have changed her hair. He was born in Northern Ireland, so he has an Irish accent," said Yodit Tewolde, an expert jurist who appeared on the American television programme, as they showed Gracey's recreation in 3D.

She was described by Spanish media as wearing a “white T-shirt and jeans... as if (she) was an inhabitant of the Marbella coast" when she appeared before the National Court on Thursday where the extradition hearing was held.

Local media reported: "With a face quite far from the appearance (of) the woman who managed to flee the United States police for ten years."

The Spanish report adds that Gracey, 54 years old and a native of Northern Ireland, “had been accused of involuntary homicide and documentary falsity”.

“Together with her husband they ran a boat rental company in Florida, where they made diving trips,” it adds. “On December 18 of that year, one of its boats, called Get Wet, sank. Two hikers were trapped in the cabin of the boat, barely nine meters long. One was saved. The other, Aimee Rhoads (36) died.

“Two years earlier, the American authorities had prohibited them from transporting more than six people on the boat, although they were allowed to continue with the business.

"They did so, although their workers also alerted them on several occasions that the boat flooded during the trips because the bilge pump failed and the deck plates were not safe."

“They were also accused of documentary falsification. American law prohibits a foreigner (none of the two were citizens of the United States) from owning a boat like the one they used in their business."

A representative for America’s Most Wanted was unable to confirm whether or not a tip came through the show’s tip line, as the investigation in Madrid is ongoing.

Based on the original series hosted by John Walsh, which ran on Fox from 1988-2011 and on Lifetime from 2011-2012, Fox’s America’s Most Wanted revival is hosted by Elizabeth Vargas and presents the cases of some of the country’s most dangerous fugitives.

In an interview with The Wrap last month, Vargas said the show employs phone banks of law enforcement officials to monitor tips received through the tip line and on social media.

“In the 10 years since ‘America’s Most Wanted’ went off the air, there’s been an explosion in technology,” she said. “People now have an HD camera in their pocket in the form of their phone.

"And they can instantly take pictures and videos and text us and reach us on social media platforms. It’s just an unbelievable interconnectedness.”

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