Amherst Man Charged With Witness Intimidation And Extortion Of A Local Physician And His Family
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Gary Drago, 56, of Amherst, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with intimidation of a witness, and making a threatening communication to extort money. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on May 15, 2017, the FBI received a complaint from an individual (Victim 1) that the defendant was engaged in extortion with death threats against her and her husband (Victim 2). During an interview in the morning on May 19, 2017, the victims told special agents that Drago has been extorting Victim 2, a physician, and his medical practice for approximately four years. The complaint states that the defendant initially asked for smaller amounts of money in the form of loans, which he never repaid. Eventually, Victim 2 claims that Drago forcibly coerced him to enter into a business relationship and since that time, the defendant has consistently abused and threatened Victim 2 and his family. The alleged abuse included Drago forcing Victim 2 to withdrawal large sums of money.
On the afternoon of May 19, 2017, the defendant went to a medical office on Wehrle Drive in Williamsville, NY, where Victim 2 is employed. After talking with an employee in the parking lot, that employee went inside and ordered all patients in the building into the reception area, and all employees into the front office area. Drago then went inside and walked out with Victim 2 with his hand on Victim 2's neck. The complaint states that the defendant told patients that Victim 2 was done seeing patients for the day. As the two walked outside, Drago told Victim 2 to get in the car.
In the evening of May 19, 2017, Victim 1 called the FBI and stated that she received a call from her husband who said he would not be coming home that night, and was being threatened by Drago. A special agent contacted Victim 2 by phone who stated, "everything is fine" and that what he and his wife previously told the FBI was "all a bunch of lies." Victim 2 terminated the call abruptly.
At approximately 9:05 p.m. that evening, law enforcement officers stopped Victim 2 and Drago’s vehicles, who at the time were traveling in separate vehicles. Victim 2 stated, "I was in fear of my life and my family's life and I did exactly what he told me to do.” The defendant was arrested the following day on May 20, 2017.
Drago made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and is being detained.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen; the Lancaster Police Department, under the direction of Chief Herald Gill; the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey; the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Steven Nigrelli; the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Timothy Howard; and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of John Flynn.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.