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Amherst man accused of putting gun to doctor's head in extortion plot

A Williamsville doctor and his family lived with death threats, extortion and kidnapping for nearly four years, according to federal investigators.

The doctor claims Gary Drago forcibly removed him from his medical office in front of patients, put him in his car and hit him with a gun several times above his left knee cap.

"He also picked up the pistol and pressed the barrel of the gun to my temple and pulled the trigger," the doctor told the FBI. "I heard a clicking noise, but the gun did not fire. He repeated this to me maybe six times in total."

The allegations are at the center of a bizarre story of Drago targeting the doctor, extorting money and, at one point, even coercing him into a joint business relationship.

Drago, the 56-year old Amherst resident accused of orchestrating the scheme,  faces federal witness intimidation and extortion charges.

"I was in fear of my life and my family's life and I did exactly what he told me to do,” the doctor told police after Drago's arrest. The doctor is not identified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti said the extortion plot continued until May of this year when the doctor and his family finally came forward.

"The victims claim the acts have been going on for four years," Violanti said.

There is no mention in court papers of when Drago first met the victims or how they came to have a relationship with him.

What is clear is that, at some point earlier this year, Drago, apparently fearful that the doctor had gone to the police, confronted him at his medical office on Wehrle Drive and, in front of waiting patients, walked him out of the office, according to court papers.

As they were leaving, investigators say Drago told the waiting room crowd that the doctor was done seeing patients for the day.

"When Drago found out the victim was meeting with the FBI, he forcibly removed him from his place of business and threatened him with a gun," Violanti said.

 

Drago, according to court papers, also used death threats to extort money from both the doctor and his medical practice.

The complaint claims the extortion began with smaller amounts of money paid to Drago in the form of loans he never repaid.

Over time, according to the victims, Drago forced them to enter into a business relationship with him and eventually coerced the doctor into withdrawing larger amounts of money.

Later, Drago demanded $350,000 to end his business agreement with the doctor, according to court papers.

On May 19, the day Drago is accused of escorting the doctor out of his office, the doctor's wife called the FBI to inform them that her husband was not coming home that night.

He had called her, she said, and told her that Drago had threatened him and was holding him at his apartment.

Drago also demanded the doctor call the FBI and deny his wife's allegations, which he did, according to investigators.

"I felt very threatened that if I did not do this, I would be harmed," he told the FBI.

Law enforcement officials apprehended Drago later that night as he and the doctor were traveling in separate vehicles.

The complaint against Drago also refers to an unnamed medical practice employee who may have tipped him off to the doctor's cooperation with police. Violanti would not comment but confirmed the investigation is ongoing.

"This complaint," he said, "appears to just scratch the surface of the extortion."

Drago, who appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, is being  detained. He also faces charges in state court related to the incident.

His arrest is the result of an investigation by the FBI, Amherst Police and New York State Police.

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