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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 28, 2019

Amherst Man Pleads Guilty To Threatening A Local Physician

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Gary Drago, 58, of Amherst, NY, pleaded guilty to witness tampering and failure to file an income tax return before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. 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 on May 19, 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received information from an individual (Victim) regarding threats, theft, and extortionate acts that the defendant made against the Victim and the Victim’s business, a medical practice. The Victim also advised the FBI that he had a meeting with the Amherst Police Department regarding these crimes the very next day. The FBI advised the Victim to meet with the Amherst Police Department. The Victim was going to meet with the Amherst Police and the FBI to tell them about how Drago previously extorted money from the Victim’s business by using threats of physical harm and threats to ruin the Victim’s reputation.

However, an employee of the Victim overheard the conversation with the FBI, and notified the defendant. Drago then arrived at the Victim’s place of business, and told the Victim’s patients that the Victim was done seeing patients that day. Drago then then physically took the Victim from his place of business and placed the Victim in his car.  Once in the car, the defendant threatened the Victim with a pistol, and slapped the Victim, telling the Victim that he heard the Victim was talking with law enforcement. Drago continued to ask the Victim who he spoke to from law enforcement, and what the Victim told them. The Victim told the defendant that he spoke to the FBI and was going to meet with the Amherst Police the next day. While continuing to threaten the Victim, the defendant told the Victim to call the FBI and tell them that everything was okay, which the Victim did. Drago then let the Victim go home.

Later that same night, the defendant repeatedly called the Victim and left messages on his voice mail threatening the Victim, and reminding the Victim not to cooperate with the FBI, or go to the meeting with the Amherst Police the next day.

Between 2013 and May 20, 2017, the defendant worked at medical business located in Williamsville, NY. During that time, Drago entered into a contract for employment with the Victim/owner and was paid a salary through the payroll. However, the defendant eventually started taking additional money from the business in the form of cash, without providing any employment service in return. When confronted by the Victim about the money, Drago would threaten force or physical harm. Specifically, the defendant took a total of $129,792 without rendering employment services. When confronted by the Victim, Drago would berate and threaten physical harm or damage to the Victim’s reputation. As a result, the Victim was fearful, and was prevented from stopping the defendant from taking the unearned money.

In addition, during the course of his employment with the Victim, Drago received recordable income. Some of this income was derived from the defendant’s threats to the Victim, and was paid by the Victim to the defendant as extortion money. The defendant received this income through payroll check payments from the victim’s business, as well as cash payments from the Victim. However, Drago failed to file federal income tax returns. For the tax years 2013 through 2016, the defendant received $294,043 in income, resulting in a loss to the Internal Revenue service of $19,007.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, New York Field Office; the Lancaster Police Department, under the direction of Chief Gerald Gill; the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey; the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Edward Kennedy; 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. 

Sentencing is scheduled for June 29, 2019, before Judge Vilardo.    

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Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Violent Crime
Updated January 29, 2019