BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – An Amherst man is facing witness intimidation and extortion charges following a federal investigation alleging that he threatened a physician and his wife and extorted them for money.
Gary Drago, 56, of Amherst, was charged by criminal complaint with intimidation of a witness and making a threatening communication to exhort money on May 20.
The FBI received a complaint on May 15 from one of the victims, stating that Drago was engaged in extortion with death threats against her and her husband, a physician employed with Meridan Medicine,
During a May 19 interview, the victims told FBI agents that Drago has been extorting the physician and his medical practice for approximately four years.
According to the complaint, Drago originally asked for smaller amounts of money in the form of loans, which he never repaid. The physician added that eventually Drago forced him to enter a business relationship and since that time has frequently abused and threatened the victim and his family. The alleged abuse includes the Drago forcing the physician to withdraw large amounts of money.
On May 19, Drago went to Meridan Medicine. After talking with an employee in the parking lot, the 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 the victim with his hand on the victim’s neck.
The complaint says that Drago told patients that the victim was done seeing patients for the day, and told him to get into the car.
That was after, according to authorities, Drago found out the doctor and his wife had met with the FBI and Amherst police.
The doctor told investigators he was threatened and hit with a pistol, spit on and slapped and that Drago even held his gun up to the doctor’s head and pulled the trigger.
The gun was not loaded.
On that night, the physician’s wife called the FBI and told them she had received a call from her husband saying that he would not be home that night and was being threatened by Drago.
A special agent contacted the physician by phone, who stated that “everything is fine” and that everything he had previously told the FBI was all a “bunch of lies”. The victim terminated the call abruptly.
At approximately 9 p.m. that night, law enforcement officers stopped both Drago’s and the victim’s cars as they were traveling in separate vehicles.
The victim told law enforcement officers “I was in fear of my life and my family’s life and I did exactly what he told me to do.”
Drago was arrested the following day, May 20.
Sources close to Gary Drago and the doctor who licensed this practice say the two didn’t just know each other for longer than a decade- it’s believed Drago was the former manager of Meridian Medicine.
That’s not mentioned in the 11-page complaint released yesterday by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Drago made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge and was detained.
If convicted of the charges, Drago could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.