Kiama MP Gareth Ward was “terrified” he could be shot or stabbed following a confrontation with a pair of extortionists in a New York hotel.
The Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra was on a stopover in New York for a few days before heading to Canada for a conference for parliamentarians with a disability.
The legally-blind MP was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on 44th Street near Broadway when he booked a massage online on Tuesday evening.
Mr Ward refuted media claims he asked for a “special massage”, stating it was a request for a standard $100 massage that he needed after walking around all day.
When he answered a knock on his hotel room door, Mr Ward opened it and saw two men standing there.
When “it became clear there was more on offer” than just a massage, Mr Ward said he asked the two men to leave.
“They became aggressive and when they wouldn’t leave I was going to call security,” Mr Ward said.
“Then they pulled out a phone with a camera and put it in my face and said, ‘we’re going to tell people that you had raped me’ and all that sort of stuff.
“He said ‘I want $1000, I want $1000 and if you don’t give me $1000 I’m going to plaster [the video] all over the internet’.”
Mr Ward described the confrontation as “frightening” – “I don’t think I have ever been that scared” – and he wondered if one of the men was armed.
“That was my first thought,” he said. “That there was a knife, there was a gun. I was terrified, I was absolutely terrified.”
Still, he had the presence of mind to get the men to follow him down to the foyer, where there was an ATM.
He knew it was there because he’d withdrawn money from it on the day he arrived at the hotel.
But once there, he had no intention of withdrawing any cash this time.
“I turned the corner and then literally ran over to the desk and said ‘call the police, these guys are trying to rob me’,” he said.
“That’s when they bolted.”
The Kiama MP then reported the incident to New York City police.
“They said it happens all the time, that it happens frequently and they’ll be investigating,” Mr Ward said.
He said he told police he was travelling onto Canada and they informed Mr Ward that he was fine to travel.
Mr Ward said he knew what people were going think about the incident.
"I'll wear the embarrassment,” he said. “The media has accused me of all sorts of things.
“I am just holding my steadfast cool because I know I have done nothing wrong.”