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Daniel LUGO





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Extortion
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: May 25, 1995
Date of arrest: June 3, 1995
Date of birth: April 6, 1963
Victims profile: Frank Griga, 33, and his girlfriend Krisztina Furton, 23
Method of murder: Poisoning (Rompun, a horse tranquilizer)
Location: Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 17, 1998

Pain & Gain

They were local bodybuilders with a penchant for steroids, strippers, and quick cash. And they became expert in the use of a peculiar motivational tool: Torture.

By Pete Collins -

December 23, 1999

In the summer of 1994, the Sun Gym featured a juice bar; aerobic workouts; free-weights; Hammer, Nautilus, and Cam machines; even baby-sitting services; and on the sly, a variety of illegal steroids available in the locker room. Just north of Miami Lakes, Sun Gym was a serious bodybuilder's hangout, run under the watchful eye of Daniel Lugo, its charismatic, fast-talking manager. Anyone could join, of course, but if you were soft and puffy, you were way out of your league here. Sun Gym's favored lads were thick and ripped. This was not a place for weekend warriors.

Supposedly the gym had 571 members, but the books were wrong. Sun Gym was hemorrhaging clients, who were taking their paunches to the newly opened Gold's Gym complex in Miami Lakes. Gold's didn't push a cult of the perfect physique; fitness training there was, by comparison, a casual outlet for exercise and social interaction.

Miami accountant John Mese had opened Sun Gym just seven years before, in January 1987. He'd started serious bodybuilding at Texas A&M, where he earned an accounting degree. In 1962, while in the air force, he was stationed in England and, with a 60-inch chest and 19 1/2-inch biceps, won the title of Mr. United Kingdom. The next year he was accepted as a Mr. America contestant, but the air force denied him leave to compete. Now he promoted bodybuilding competitions. When professional bodybuilders came to Miami to compete, most trained at Sun Gym.

But while Mese was a prominent accountant -- he'd been president of Mese & Associates in Miami Shores since 1970, and occasionally taught accounting theory at two local universities -- no one could say he was astute when it came to hiring his gym employees. One Sun Gym manager, according to lore, had left for vacation and was arrested in Louisiana with massive amounts of cocaine and amphetamines in his car. Another manager, an ex-cop, quit working at Sun Gym then performed the ultimate reverse sting when he led three drug dealers out to the Everglades and executed them. Mese claimed that other employees stole from the gym. One quit, swearing that Mese had swindled him.

The gym's core clientele -- obsessed with developing muscle size, definition, and density -- was problematic as well, described by observers as "cops and bad guys." One Miami police officer ventured that he could "meet my monthly quota of felony arrests in one night at the Sun Gym" by running background checks on the denizens pumping iron all around him.

By 1992 Mese was about to ditch the enterprise. His bright hopes for Sun Gym had imploded. It was about time, his friends and family thought. He'd already lost one partner and many clients at his accounting firm because of the inordinate attention he gave the gym, and the time he spent coordinating bodybuilding contests during the tax season. The gym had been nothing but a drain, another bad investment. His dream that it would become an internationally renowned muscle mecca was all but dead.

Then Daniel Lugo turned up on his doorstep, looking for work. The 30-year-old New York native had moved to Hialeah about four years earlier, along with his wife, Lillian, and their four adopted children, all of whom were Lillian's relations, left to her custody after several family tragedies. He and Lillian were no longer together, though they remained close friends. He'd since remarried.

Lugo was full of ideas for the gym. Like a rainmaker in the wilderness, he promised Mese he could help deliver a virtual torrent of members and cash. They'd work together and build an empire: a Sun Gym clothing line, Sun Gym vitamins, a Sun Gym juice bar, a Sun Gym karate team. But best of all, Lugo said, he was developing computer software that would render obsolete all previous methods of gym management. For Mese, whose accounting firm also owned a computer company, this was perfect. Lugo's software would strengthen the gym's ability to monitor membership payments and accounts receivable.

So persuasive was Lugo that Mese was happy to overlook his past. The new hire had just served a fifteen-month sentence at the Eglin Air Force Base Federal Correctional Institute, a minimum-security prison camp in Florida's Panhandle, and was beginning a three-year federal probation period full of "special terms," which included paying $70,000 in restitution to his victims. In addition he couldn't establish any lines of credit or incur credit charges without the permission of his probation officer.

Lugo's crime had been to prey on individuals in desperate need of cash. His victims, unable to obtain conventional loans, had placed ads in the Miami Herald seeking venture capital. Lugo masqueraded as David Lowenstein, an agent representing financiers connected with a fictitious Hong Kong bank that had millions to lend to American small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Employing an advance-fee payment scheme, he collected up-front from eager applicants, supposedly to purchase Lloyd's of London insurance to ensure repayment of the loans. He ultimately collected $71,200 in fees but failed to deliver any loans.

In May 1990, FBI agents had arrested Lugo at Scandinavian Health and Racquet Club in Kendall, where he worked as a salesman, making $600 per month. When the feds made him declare his worth, Lugo estimated that he made another $1200 per month in commissions. He pleaded guilty to fraud in January 1991, in Miami's U.S. District Court. As a requirement of his plea agreement, he also admitted to similar criminal activity in Oklahoma. (His victims' losses there totaled $230,000.) In his Acceptance of Responsibility statement to the court, Lugo wrote, "I hereby acknowledge my guilt and I know what I did was wrong. There is no substitute for hard work and I am a hard worker.... It will never happen again for I have learned not to use intelligence for wrong actions to justify the good end." But on that solemn occasion, he lied one more time, insisting to the court that he was a Fordham University graduate with a computer science degree (in fact he'd attended Fordham but left before graduating).

Despite that background John Mese hired him to manage, and revive, Sun Gym. And for a time it looked as though Lugo would do just that. The six-feet-two, 230-pounder certainly had the physique and the dynamic personality to attract new clients. Although he began as a personal trainer, he soon was promoted to general manager. And by the summer of 1994, Lugo had become the absolute centerpiece, the star in the Sun Gym universe. On the books, at least, business looked good.

Lugo's best buddy at the gym was Noel "Adrian" Doorbal. The two had met a few years before through a girl Lugo was working with at the time, Lucretia Goodridge. Doorbal, a cousin of Goodridge, recently had arrived from Trinidad and was living at her house while he got a feel for life in the States. A tenth-grade dropout, he worked as a fry-cook at Fiesta Taco in Kendall, riding a bicycle to and from work. Over time the two men took jobs as personal trainers in a series of Miami gyms. They were also constant, serious workout partners. After Lugo was released from Eglin and divorced from Lillian Torres, he married Goodridge. With her cousin added to the mix, he got a two-for-one deal: a spouse and a best friend, for better or worse.

Lugo soon hired Doorbal to work part time at Sun Gym. And Lugo did even more for his friend: He made him very rich. By January 1994 the 22-year-old Doorbal, whose visa had long since expired, was able to invest a million dollars in a Merrill Lynch mutual fund account. Truly amazing for the young, part-time personal trainer with just two clients, neither of them named Madonna or Stallone.

How did he get so rich? Almost immediately after Lugo was released from Eglin and hired by Mese, he met a weight lifter at Sun Gym who had an affinity for white-collar crime and also was fresh out of jail. Together they established ten phony medical companies, then rented dozens of mailboxes, many at the Lakes Postal Center in Miami Lakes. They bought names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other information about legitimate Medicare recipients for ten dollars apiece, and mailed fraudulent bills to the government for nonexistent medical services.

Lugo kept the lion's portion of their take, which was fine with his partner (he later told investigators he'd begun to fear for his life after hearing Lugo boast about hiring a hit man to kill a partner who'd crossed him). When they parted ways, Lugo deposited the ill-gotten gains into the mutual fund account under Doorbal's name; he was mindful of his probation, and he still owed his victims $71,200 in restitution.


During that summer of 1994, Carl Weekes decided to leave New York to straighten out his life. Miami was perhaps an odd destination for someone trying to steer clear of drugs and crime, like going to Las Vegas to kick a gambling habit.

Originally from Barbados, Weekes had been just one year in the Marine Corps when he threatened his sergeant's life. He was discharged in lieu of a court martial and returned home to Brooklyn, working intermittently and living off relatives. He committed house burglaries, as well as armed robberies of drug dealers, and became addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine.

When he was 30 years old, he suffered a seizure, entered rehab, got clean, and found Christianity. But he was still on welfare and his girlfriend was pregnant with their third child. She had a cousin in Miami, she said, a Haitian immigrant named Stevenson Pierre. Perhaps he could help Weekes start over. Weekes figured he might as well try. He'd save some money, then bring his family down to join him. He left New York on his 31st birthday.

Pierre didn't especially like Weekes, whom he'd met several times at family gatherings. He thought Weekes was spoiled and impulsive, a braggart and a brat. But family was family, so he offered room and board, and the promise of a job at the gym where he was employed.

Pierre, who had once worked as a credit analyst and skip tracer for American Express in New York City, was on the Sun Gym payroll. Daniel Lugo had hired him in February 1994 to create a collection agency for overdue membership payments. The plan ended abruptly two months later, when the 26-year-old Pierre announced it would take more than a hundred grand to become incorporated, licensed, and bonded. He stayed on staff, however, as back-office manager in the weight room, supervising the personal trainers and exhorting the weight lifters to get bigger, stronger: no pain, no gain. But Pierre, who clocked in at five feet five and just 130 pounds, hardly cut an inspirational figure at Sun Gym. Before long he was little more than a desk clerk.

In September 1994, when Weekes arrived in Miami, Pierre took him to the gym and introduced him to Adrian Doorbal and Daniel Lugo, whose celebrity status among fellow employees increased with word of his financial genius. But like Pierre, Weekes was a lightweight. He weighed only 140. Sorry, said Lugo, he had no openings. At least not at the moment. Rumors were afloat that the gym was for sale, and Lugo was under a hiring freeze. But he hinted nonetheless that something might open up. So Weekes lived with Pierre and the latter's seven-year-old son, and waited. He yo-yoed between Miami and New York, collecting public-assistance checks and food stamps.

Then things got worse for Weekes: The gym laid off his host. Pierre took a job in Little Haiti at his father's dry-cleaning shop, but Weekes still moped around the house, hoping to hear from Lugo and growing more desperate. He could do this in New York and be with his family. He wanted to work.

Suddenly, opportunity.

In mid-October 1994, Lugo called Weekes. He had an offer, he said. Come to my office for the particulars. Lugo's "office" was a room he maintained at the Miami Lakes branch of the accounting firm headed by Sun Gym's owner, John Mese. When Weekes arrived for the meeting with Lugo and Doorbal, Stevenson Pierre was there as well.

Lugo asked the two men if they were interested in making $100,000 for two days' work. He'd recently discovered that a bad man, "a scumbag" named Marc Schiller, had stolen not only $100,000 from him, but an additional $200,000 from a gym member named Jorge Delgado. It was probably not true, but Lugo laid it on thick anyway. They intended to get it back, and more, he went on. Pierre knew the 31-year-old Delgado from the gym, and had heard that he and Lugo were buddies. He knew Lugo had the keys to Delgado's warehouse in Hialeah. Called Speed Racer's, the warehouse was used as a storage facility and distribution center for Delgado's various business interests. Pierre had once helped transport some Sun Gym exercise equipment there.

Schiller needed to be "taken down," said Lugo, and in his lexicon, that meant they should snatch the scumbag, take him to a secluded spot, beat him, make him confess to stealing the money, and force him to return it, plus take his house and anything else he owned. Then maybe -- probably -- kill him.

Well, Pierre thought, that's a little severe. Why didn't Delgado and Lugo just talk to Schiller? As for Weekes, he knew at once that this was exactly the kind of action he'd come to Miami to avoid. But when Lugo sidled up to him, slung his side-of-beef arm around the smaller man's coat-hanger shoulders, and promised that once the Schiller business was behind them, he'd personally impart some of his financial genius, any resistance crumbled.

They met again a few days later at Lugo's office, and this time Jorge Delgado was present. He'd okayed the plan to abduct and, if necessary, kill Schiller. Now he was ready to provide information about their relationship, the man's private life, his daily routine.


In 1991 Delgado had to quit his job as a car salesman. His wife, Linda, who worked for Schiller in his M.S.S. Accounting Services office in West Dade, cried as she described to her boss the couple's perilous finances. A sympathetic Schiller offered the Havana-born Delgado a job and brought him in as a gofer. But soon he had a title: marketing representative. As time passed the men became best friends and partners in several business ventures (Schiller staked Delgado's investment money), including a nutritional-supplements company and a new accounting firm. All in all Delgado had profited immensely from the relationship. A few years earlier, he and his wife were living with her parents. Now he had a nice house north of Miami Lakes. Linda didn't have to work anymore. They were planning to start a family.

Delgado knew Schiller's family well: his wife Diana and their two young children, David and Stephanie. In fact Schiller so trusted Delgado that he gave him the security code to his home. Delgado knew the layout of the house and where the safe was located. He knew Schiller left his pistol and valuable documents locked in the safe. More important, he knew where Schiller banked, and the exact locations and dollar amounts of offshore accounts Schiller created for investors. He'd even gone with Schiller to the Cayman Islands, where his boss set up the accounts.

Then, late in 1992, Delgado met Daniel Lugo at Sun Gym. He used him as a personal trainer during workouts, and Lugo became a compelling force in his life away from the weights as well, sort of a strong, popular older brother. Delgado tried to bring Lugo into business with Schiller, but Schiller thought Lugo was coarse and creepy. When they had their falling-out, it was over Delgado's preoccupation with Lugo. Schiller said: Him or me. Delgado picked Lugo. Schiller warned him: That guy's going to get you into a lot of trouble somewhere down the line.

Now, in the fall of 1994, Delgado's wife had a baby on the way. What kind of scumbag, Lugo asked, would take food out of a baby's mouth? So forget the measly $200,000 Schiller has "stolen" from Delgado. They were going after everything Schiller owned: his $300,000 house and all its furnishings; the million dollars he'd invested offshore; more than $100,000 in his personal bank account; his cars; his investment in La Gorce Palace, a luxury condominium being built on Miami Beach; his Schlotzsky's Deli franchise near Miami International Airport; even his credit cards.

The Sun Gym gang hurried over to The Spy Shop on Biscayne Boulevard, owned by John Demeter, a born-again Christian. Beneath large banners reading "Jesus Saves" and "God Is Love," they examined merchandise designed to shock, incapacitate, imprison, and eavesdrop on their fellow man. Pretending to be a security crew for a rock band, the gang bought shock-inducing taser guns, stainless-steel handcuffs, and small Motorola walkie-talkies featuring privacy-enhancing point-to-point communication settings, just like the cops use.

Lugo rented a burgundy Ford Astrovan from which they could watch Schiller's movements, tail him, then grab him. And when they had him, they would use the van to carry him to Delgado's Speed Racer's warehouse. Weekes and Pierre agreed to ride in the back of the van on these scouting expeditions; two black men circling Schiller's upscale Old Cutler Cove neighborhood in South Dade surely would get pulled over.

But despite the new hardware and high spirits, the gang's first attempts to kidnap Schiller failed. To be kind, they were not smart plans -- not in their conception, especially not in their execution. For Halloween they planned to don ninja outfits and trick-or-treat in Schiller's neighborhood. They'd knock on his door and nab him when he answered. But instead they opted to spend the night at a strip club. They thought of another scheme: kidnapping him as he drove along the Palmetto Expressway during rush hour. But as they tried to catch up to his car, Schiller took an unexpected exit ramp.

The most complicated tactical operation took place early one November morning, right in Schiller's front yard. Although he lived in a gated community, access to the home was simple: A perimeter road next to a canal allowed anyone entry. Schiller's house was the closest to this road.

Adrian Doorbal, Stevenson Pierre, and Carl Weekes waited for Schiller to open his door and walk outside to pick up the morning paper. The three men were dressed all in black and wore gloves and military camouflage makeup. (Weekes remembered this application technique from his Marine Corps training.) They crawled across the lawn and huddled under movers' blankets in a chilly predawn rain, preparing to storm the house and hold the family hostage. But a passing car spooked them, and they radioed the now-familiar "mission abort" message to Lugo, who was in a nearby park with the van. The group ran all the way back to the vehicle.

When morale was down after yet another failed abduction (there had been six by now) Lugo would take the crew to the Solid Gold Club on 163rd Street, Miami's premier strip palace, and hand his colleagues money for the dancers. He would buy the guys drinks and tried to buoy their confidence. If the gang pulled off this Schiller caper, he'd say, these voluptuous naked centerfold fantasies could be theirs!

At 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 14, the Sun Gym gang made its seventh abduction attempt. Lugo sat in his Toyota Camry, blocking Schiller in his 4Runner in an alleyway next to his Schlotzsky's Deli franchise. Parked around a corner, the Astrovan -- with Doorbal, Weekes, and Pierre -- was to close in, blocking Schiller from behind. They would pluck him from the 4Runner, subdue him, and kidnap him. But while Schiller blasted his horn for an agonizing minute at the heavily tinted Camry, the guys in the van radioed that they couldn't start their vehicle. Mission aborted! Again!

When the gang regrouped at the Miami Lakes business office he shared with John Mese, Lugo was livid. This was it, he told them; the scheme was off. He'd had it with their bungling. No more cocktails and naked babes for these losers. He had his Medicare scheme to rely on. If the rest of them wanted a merry Christmas, they'd have to snag Schiller.

Adrian Doorbal and Carl Weekes responded to Lugo's challenge like football players who've been reamed by the coach at halftime. In fact they'd already decided Pierre wasn't sufficiently gung-ho for the assignment. So after the three left Lugo's office, they dropped off Pierre at his house, essentially benching him for the game. They now pinned their hopes on another player: Mario Sanchez, "Big Mario," a former Sun Gym weight-lifting instructor and licensed Florida private eye. The detective business had soured, and Sanchez, at six feet four and 270 pounds, now worked as a bouncer at Hooligan's Pub & Oyster Bar in Miami Lakes. He appeared to be in a financial jam, driving his Volkswagen Jetta on a doughnut spare tire. But he still possessed several assets, notably, a concealed-weapon permit and a .357-Magnum revolver.

Later that day Doorbal approached Sanchez in the gym and asked him outside to talk. They climbed into the van with Weekes, and Doorbal laid out his offer: He needed an "intimidator" because he planned to collect money from a drug dealer who welshed on a debt. Sanchez would earn $1000 in one afternoon.

"What is this, a big drug dealer we're collecting money from, Adrian?" asked Sanchez. He knew that approaching a dealer with a "money claim" wasn't the safest way to spend an afternoon. "I don't want to go collect from any guy in the Colombian cartel. I don't want to wind up dead, my picture on the front page of the Miami Herald with flies and maggots in my mouth."

Following that meeting Doorbal and Weekes unexpectedly showed up at Sanchez's apartment. He was still reluctant to participate: Are you positive you aren't going to hurt this guy? But Doorbal assured him he could pick up a quick grand for doing what he did nightly at Hooligan's -- merely "looking big and mean" -- and maintained they just wanted to settle a legitimate debt.

Sanchez agreed. The holidays were coming and he wanted to give his son a nice Christmas present.


That same afternoon Marc Schiller was waiting at Schlotzsky's to meet with a prospective buyer of the franchise delicatessen. Despite its location near the airport, the eatery attracted little evening business, and he'd already had to lay off several employees.

Schiller's problems were fairly normal: coping with a broken swimming-pool pump; trying to sell his failing deli; wrapping up his CPA work early so the family could travel to Colombia to join his in-laws for Hanukkah. He was anxious that day to get home to his wife and the kids. Freakish, late-season Tropical Storm Gordon was beginning to surge over Miami. Still he waited for the buyer. Doorbal, Weekes, and Sanchez drove to Schlotzsky's and parked in the back lot.

It was just past 4:00 p.m. when Schiller gave up hope that his buyer would show. He walked across the parking lot under a leaden sky to his 4Runner, and just as he opened the door, the three men grabbed him and began to stun him with tasers. Each zap carried 120,000 volts. He tried to hold on to the steering wheel but was violently yanked away. "Take my watch, my money ... my car!" he yelled, thinking this was a robbery or a carjacking.

Nothing. Just more shocks and punches.

"What the fuck do you guys want?"

"You," Schiller heard as they dragged him toward the van. He struggled, he screamed at them, at any possible passersby. They forced him over to the van and heaved him inside. Someone jammed a gun barrel to his temple and told him to keep his eyes shut, or he'd be dead. They drove off and eased into heavy rush-hour traffic at a relaxed speed.

With his head pressed to the floorboard, Schiller felt two of the strangers shackle his ankles, then handcuff his wrists behind his back. The hot, blurred moments of his abduction were the last sights Schiller could remember as they savagely wound duct tape around his head, over his eyes and ears. After this, time and space became conjecture. Someone pulled off his Presidential Rolex, took the wallet from his back pocket, ripped off his Star of David necklace. "We've got ourselves a genuine matzo ball!" one of his captors announced.

They laughed and taunted him as they hit and kicked him. Someone kept asking him, "Why are you taking food out of a baby's mouth? How come you're allowed to have so much money while we have so little?" But Schiller -- hyperventilating, his face smashed against the floor in this sudden, brutal reversal of fortune -- was in no mood to debate the evils of anti-Semitism or theories of American capitalism. He kept silent. A mover's blanket was thrown over him. Systematic doses of electricity seared into his right heel.

As he neared unconsciousness, Schiller realized the van had come to a stop. A voice in the front of the vehicle spoke into a cell phone: "The Eagle has landed." Schiller didn't know it then, but he was at Delgado's warehouse. The Eagle would soon undergo his first interrogation.

Marc Schiller was born in Buenos Aires but left Argentina with his family when he was four and grew up in New York City. After obtaining a business degree from the University of Wisconsin, he took a series of accounting jobs before becoming a comptroller for a U.S.-owned oil pipeline company in Bogotá, where he met and married Diana.

In 1989 his boss had been kidnapped and held for ransom by the Army of National Liberation (ELN), a guerrilla group that regularly attacks foreign-owned oil pipelines and foreign employees in Colombia. Negotiations between the ELN and the company's attorneys dragged on (the settlement took months to reach) and U.S. employees of the company were ordered back to the States.

Schiller and his wife moved to Miami. They began raising children. He set up a successful CPA practice and dabbled in other businesses: the franchise deli and the nutritional-supplements company.

Now he learned quickly what being a prisoner of Lugo was like. For two hours he felt the electric lash of the taser guns, the explosions of punches, the pistol-whippings. The men took his Sharper Image all-weather lighter and burned him on his arms and chest. They played Russian roulette against his temple. Gagged and blindfolded, chained to a warehouse wall, he found it ironic that he'd moved his family to the United States to avoid the very thing that was happening.

The Sun Gym gang wasted no time that evening. They retrieved Schiller's car from the deli parking lot and drove it into the warehouse. Jamming a pistol to his ear, they presented him with a number of "scripts" and forced him to begin rehearsals, then to make calls over the warehouse telephone. That night he called his wife: Get the kids, get out of the house, don't call anyone -- especially the police! -- and go to your family in Colombia.

A terrified Diana obeyed; she took her children back to Colombia. At least the family was safe. Schiller's captors had threatened to bring Diana to the warehouse and rape her. But the relief was double-edged: Now these men had access to his empty house.

Schiller's calls to business associates over the next few days were different. Here the scripts called for a fantastic story: He'd fallen in love with a hot young Cuban named Lillian Torres. She drove him crazy, so loco he was going to convert his assets to cash and ride off into the sunset with her. Also in that time his captors began making dozens of requests for his autograph. Still blindfolded -- the duct tape cut so tightly into his head that blood seeped from the bridge of his nose -- he couldn't see the documents he signed. To him each seemed a death sentence.

As he contemplated his fate between signatures, Schiller slowly began to comprehend the genesis of his kidnapping. He recognized Lugo's distinctive voice, which had reminded him of Mike Tyson's lisp with a New York accent. And he knew only Delgado could be the source of information his captors already knew and were merely asking him to confirm: the house alarm codes, the money locations.

Schiller deduced he was being held by at least four men who guarded him in shifts. Lugo had limited daytime hours because he had to be seen at the gym, in case his parole officer checked up on him. The others referred to Lugo as Boss or Batman. Robin (Adrian Doorbal) was the late-afternoon/early evening baby sitter.

Schiller's favorites -- such was his lot to be rating captors -- were Sparrow (Carl Weekes) and Napoleon (Stevenson Pierre, who had rejoined the gang after Lugo and Doorbal threatened his son's life), who handled the graveyard shift. Whatever kindness he received -- a cigarette, a hamburger, a drink of water -- came from them. In fact Sparrow, the most loquacious of the group, had performed an act of supreme mercy. When Schiller complained of the excruciating pain where the duct tape gouged him, Sparrow had gingerly inserted a thin sanitary napkin between the tape and the messy bridge of his nose. Schiller was grateful, but the placement of the feminine hygiene product brought big laughs from Batman and Robin.

The only other female touch in the grim warehouse involved the curious visits of Lucretia Goodridge, Lugo's current wife. She now was pregnant with their second child and suspicious of her husband's long absences. Goodridge was a devout Buddhist, so involved in local Buddhism circles that jazz musicians George Tandy and Nestor Torres, fellow practitioners of the faith, attended her 1992 wedding. To silence her Lugo drove her to the warehouse to show her just how he'd been spending his long hours away from home. He showed her his prisoner -- chained, blindfolded, emaciated, filthy. Perhaps the scene left her terrified. Perhaps she thought the captive had some bad karma. Whatever the reason, Goodridge kept her silence after that.


Instead of the quick-strike, two-day abduction the Sun Gym gang had hoped for, it took weeks to convert Schiller's assets, weeks of torture and sight-deprivation. The big score eluded them until his accounts from Switzerland and the Cayman Islands finally were routed into his Miami bank account. Then they freed his right hand again, and he signed over $1.26 million.

On December 10, as the last money transfer was completed, Lugo, Doorbal, and Delgado reached a decision: It was time for Schiller to die. Pierre and Weekes tried to dissuade the others, but to no avail. There was, after all, his two-million-dollar MetLife insurance policy, and one of his signatures had designated Lugo's ex-wife Lillian Torres as the new beneficiary. They'd get him flaming drunk over the course of several days and send him out in his 4Runner to a fatal crash.

They tried vodka, tequila, and a chocolate liqueur. It all made Schiller retch, but what choice did he have except to keep guzzling? He couldn't stand the thought of more torture.

Sparrow tried to encourage him: This was the only exit from his shackles, he said, the only way he'd ever see his family again. Boss had a pal in Customs at Miami International Airport who would spirit Schiller on an airplane for Colombia, but Schiller must be so blitzed he'd never be able to ID the man.

Schiller desperately wanted to be able to see again. He could no longer picture his wife or his children. He had tried. Nothing.

In his despair he also knew the airplane story was bullshit. One of his last scripted calls had been to Gene Rosen, his attorney. He'd had to tell Rosen he'd granted power of attorney to Jorge Delgado for the purposes of negotiating the sale of the deli. And Delgado had gone to Rosen's office to get the paperwork. There was no way now, Schiller knew, he'd get out of this alive. But the gang went ahead with the pretense: They put in a final call to Colombia. He was to tell his wife he'd wrapped things up and would be joining the family in a few days. Diana unexpectedly put five-year-old David on the phone. The boy wanted to know when his father was coming home. He missed his daddy. Hearing his son's voice devastated Schiller. Soon, he told him, knowing he was telling a lie.

On December 14, 1994, the last full day of his captivity, Lugo ordered Schiller to wash down sleeping pills in the river of alcohol that streamed into his stomach. When he resisted, his captors stuck the pharmaceutical olives into a giant Schiller martini. They wanted his transformation from teetotaler and family man to suicidal flameout who'd ruined everything in a midlife crisis, to be complete. In just one month he'd lost family, business, his house, and investments -- all over a hot young babe.

In the very early morning of December 15, Schiller sat chained on a chair. He knew he was about to be killed. Once again he got inebriated on command. He grew dizzy and toppled to the warehouse floor. Barely conscious, he heard laughter. Then ... nothing. Boss unchained him, picked him up, and threw him against a wall.

At 2:30 that morning, after three days of forced drinking, an unconscious Schiller was tossed into the passenger seat of his 4Runner. Lugo drove while Weekes and Doorbal followed in the Camry. They'd picked a crash site in the warehouse/retail district three blocks south of Schlotzsky's. When they reached the spot, they strapped Schiller into the driver's seat. Lugo moved to the passenger side, stomped on the gas pedal, and steered the vehicle toward a concrete utility pole. Just before the collision, he jumped out. When they ran up to inspect the wreckage, they found Schiller in the driver's seat, alive but still unconscious.

Lugo splashed gasoline over him, then around the interior of the 4Runner, and lit a blaze with the Sharper Image lighter. Once the fire got going, the portable barbecue propane tank they'd added for good measure would explode. But as they were pulling away in the Camry -- incredible! -- they saw Schiller open the door and climb out of the 4Runner.

Carl Weekes was still driving the Camry. "Get him! Get him!" yelled Lugo and Doorbal between bouts of laughter. But the staggering, reeling Schiller was no easy target to hit. Weekes missed at first, and the pursuit became a slow, grim pas de deux between the car and the lurching victim. Weekes finally nailed him with the front grille. Schiller bounced onto the hood and flew off. Weekes began to drive away, but Lugo and Doorbal yelled, "No! No! Go back! Run him over! Run him over!" Weekes turned the car around and ran him over. Do it again, they screamed, but Weekes saw the approaching headlights of another car. He hit the gas and they sped off. Schiller lay on the ground as the 4Runner was engulfed in flames.

Later that afternoon Lugo summoned Delgado to the warehouse and told him they'd killed Schiller in the staged crash. There'd been just one hitch, he said: They had to run Schiller over -- twice. The news irritated Delgado. They'd had numerous discussions about the best way to kill Schiller, and this wasn't his choice. He'd argued that they should kill Schiller first, put him behind the wheel of his car, and dump the car somewhere. (Taking up that theory, Doorbal had volunteered to strangle him. The best way to do it, he would say, was to drive your thumbs into the Adam's apple.) But Lugo favored a staged crash because the body would be discovered quickly. He wanted the millions in insurance money right away. If you dumped the car in a canal, it might take days or even weeks longer to find the body.

To allay Delgado's concerns, Lugo showed him the damaged Camry. He pointed out the dents in the hood and the left front fender. "Don't you think this kind of damage would have killed somebody?" he asked.

"No," said Delgado.


December 16, 1994.

Miami private investigator Ed Du Bois, the National Football League's investigator and security consultant in South Florida, sat in his office reviewing security procedures for the upcoming Super Bowl XXIX. Du Bois coordinated with law-enforcement agencies to provide safety for the dignitaries, politicians, and celebrities who would attend the festivities.

Du Bois headed Investigators, Inc., the oldest detective agency in Florida. It was a family business; his father, a former FBI agent, started the firm in 1955, and Du Bois had begun his own investigative career in 1960 as a high school intern there. He graduated from Florida State University in 1966, then enlisted in the air force.

During the week of his graduation from fighter-pilot training in 1968, just as Du Bois was about to start a tour in Vietnam, his father suffered a cranial aneurysm and died. Du Bois returned home and took over the agency, which he ran as an upscale, high-tech firm. Now age 51, he'd been married to his college sweetheart for 28 years; they had three children, all living at home.

Du Bois supervised hundreds of cases each year, and his firm maintained a close relationship with federal and local law enforcement. He frequently was retained as an outside contractor by police departments and state prosecutors. In Dade County, he'd worked for State Attorneys Richard Gerstein and Janet Reno. Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the current head prosecutor, had hired him, too.

On this morning he received a call from Miami attorney Gene Rosen. The lawyer was giving him a heads-up; he'd advised a hospitalized client, a man who had "a wild story," to call the investigator. The guy needed help with a problem. When Rosen's client phoned later that morning, he sounded drugged, thick-tongued, yet edgy with fright and desperation. His sordid story was a jarring contrast to the spectacle Du Bois was coordinating for the NFL.

Marc Schiller told Du Bois he was a local businessman, currently a patient at Jackson Memorial Hospital, recovering from an operation to remove his spleen and repair a shattered pelvis and ruptured bladder. When he'd come out of anesthesia, his surgeon told him he'd had an accident. But Schiller, whose credibility was undermined because he'd entered the hospital as a suspected DUI case, insisted he'd been kidnapped and tortured for a month. Whatever landed him in the hospital, he couldn't be sure, but he was certain his captors had tried to kill him and would come after him again. He begged for protection.

Du Bois thought Schiller sounded like a screwball. (He had some experience with potential clients making outrageous claims, such as the man who had complained about painful jolts of electricity surging through his body, administered by evil beings from outer space. Du Bois effected a quick cure. He pressed "electrical grounding tabs" -- thumbtacks -- into the heels of the man's shoes. The miracle devices worked.) But if Schiller's story were true, even if only partly true, it probably was a drug-related abduction, Du Bois reasoned. And he didn't want to get caught up in a doper payback scheme. On the other hand, drug dealers never settled matters through civil attorneys like Gene Rosen. And he said Schiller was legitimate. More curious, there'd been no ransom demand. And Schiller was alive. All were highly unusual factors.

So Du Bois gave Schiller his best advice: Scram. Anyone can walk into a hospital, he said. It would cost $60 per hour for an armed bodyguard, and if Schiller was telling the truth and this gang was determined to kill him, they'd also try to kill any hired protectors. Du Bois didn't want to sacrifice any of his guys based on a phone conversation. Schiller could take his complaints to the police, he added. But he should talk with his doctor, leave the hospital as quickly as possible, and hide in a safe place -- any place but Miami -- while he recuperated. Du Bois even offered to drive him to the airport, but Schiller didn't call him back.

Meanwhile that day the Sun Gym gang was anxiously scanning news reports on the slim chance the Miami media would cover a run-of-the-mill, single-fatality car crash. Nothing, not even an obituary. Could this guy be alive? How could he be alive? They'd run him over twice. They called the morgue. Nothing. Then they began calling area hospitals.

Schiller had been admitted with no ID and listed as a John Doe. When he regained consciousness after the operation, he told the staff his name. Finally the gang learned he was at JMH in critical but stable condition. Now they devised various plans to kill him at the hospital. Doorbal again volunteered to strangle him, while the others staged a diversionary fistfight in the hallway. They also talked of silencers, of sneaking up the stairwell and killing everyone in Schiller's room. The consensus was that suffocating Schiller with his pillow was the best idea. In the end they decided to wing it; whatever method worked was fine.

They visited the hospital but got lost in the maze of corridors while looking for intensive care. And what if a cop was stationed by his door? They needed a fresh plan. Later that day Lugo bought hospital garb at a uniform supply store. The next morning, as they prepared to suit up and return to JMH, they called to check on Schiller's condition. He was no longer a patient. Sorry, they were informed, no forwarding address.

Luckily Schiller had listened to Du Bois. He contacted his sister in New York, who hired an air ambulance. On the morning of December 17, Schiller checked out of the hospital against the advice of his attending doctors. At $6000 for a one-way flight, the trip was costly, but well worth it. Leaving the hospital saved his life.

Information for this story was drawn from interviews with principal characters, investigative reports, court documents, and trial testimony. Next week: Marc Schiller comes back for revenge, a private investigator gets nowhere with the cops, and the Sun Gym gang leaders set up love nests while they target more victims.


Pain & Gain, Part 2

Miami's Sun Gym gang developed a taste for blood and money. The police could have stopped them before they killed somebody. But they didn't.

Miami businessman Marc Schiller disappeared from his Schlotzsky's Deli franchise in mid-November 1994. A month later, recovering from massive injuries at Jackson Memorial Hospital, he called private investigator Ed Du Bois. For weeks, he said, he'd been chained to a wall and tortured in unspeakable ways. He'd been forced to sign away his house, his investments, his bank accounts, his life insurance. In the end the kidnappers tried to kill him, and they nearly succeeded. Although blindfolded during the ordeal, he recognized one of his captors: a former business partner, a protégé. Help me, he begged Du Bois. He wanted his house back; he needed his money. But most important, he had to make sure they wouldn't find him and finish the job.

Marc Schiller spent the next week recovering at Staten Island University Hospital. On Christmas Eve 1994, he left the hospital and moved into his sister's Long Island home. He couldn't get across a room without using a walker. A simple thing like emptying his bladder was agony.

But he could remember nearly everything that had happened the month before: the burns and beatings, the forced signatures, the attempted murder. Most important he remembered the betrayal by Jorge Delgado, whom he had hired and made rich through generous partnerships. He called his brother in Tampa, and Alex Schiller called Delgado. Alex knew every disgusting detail of the abduction. He knew Delgado and his chums had swindled Marc out of various assets. He knew about the torture. And he was coming to Miami to avenge that suffering. Delgado had better grow eyes in the back of his head.

This posed a new problem for the Sun Gym gang. Schiller was alive and talking. They'd have to eliminate him once and for all. On Christmas Eve, Daniel Lugo, Adrian Doorbal, and Stevenson Pierre made a journey to Tampa. Schiller must be at his brother's house, they figured, and this time they'd kill him, no screwups. But as they watched the house, Alex emerged with a suitcase and took off in his car for Miami. The three wise men lost him on the Florida Turnpike. Lugo called ahead to warn Delgado, who spent a paranoid Christmas at home with his wife and their new baby.

Lugo and Doorbal had been making periodic visits to Schiller's Old Cutler Cove home since mid-November, when they'd ordered their captive to tell his wife to grab the children and flee to her native Colombia. Among the first possessions the gang removed from the vacated house were the contents of the safe: $10,000 in cash plus credit cards, the deed to the house and documents pertaining to Schiller's La Gorce Palace condominium, insurance papers, and his wife's jewelry.

By early January 1995 the gang was emboldened again. They'd heard nothing more from Schiller or his brother, and decided it was safe to move into the house. It was a swell, upscale place -- complete with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and an entertainment system that featured a 50-inch television -- a far cry from their usual digs. They'd taken care of the paperwork, and the house now belonged to D&J International, a Bahamian company Lugo had set up the year before. As new lords of the manor, they were living well indeed. Schiller was alive, an inconvenience to be sure, but even so they'd netted about $2.1 million in cash, real estate, cars, credit cards, and jewels.

Lugo, who still had to worry about the constraining terms of his federal probation, leased an $80,000 gold Mercedes in Delgado's name. Carl Weekes, the unemployed New York welfare recipient who'd moved to Miami to clean up his act, received about half the promised $100,000 payment for his role in the kidnapping. Stevenson Pierre would receive just $30,000. He had an attitude problem, they decided, and had been conspicuously absent during the most crucial episodes, including the final night when they'd tried so hard to kill Schiller.

Lugo was the point man in the plush new surroundings. He introduced himself around the neighborhood as "Tom" and explained, in terms that would alarm no one, that he and his colleagues were members of the U.S. security forces. Marc Schiller had run into legal trouble and been deported, along with his family. The house had been confiscated and now was government property. Tom and his crew would take care of its maintenance. Any strangers seen coming and going would be foreign diplomats, most of them from the Caribbean.

The gang acted neighborly, borrowing tools and returning them promptly. They began paying homeowner-association dues. Tom impressed one neighborhood couple by climbing up a tall ladder to change a front-porch light bulb two stories above their welcome mat. He asked another neighbor to accept delivery of packages delivered to the Schiller house if no one was home. The neighbor accepted twelve UPS deliveries and handed them over without question.

Lugo visited The Spy Shop on Biscayne Boulevard -- where three months before, the gang had bought stun guns, handcuffs, and other tools of the Schiller kidnapping -- this time to upgrade the home-security system. He decided on a $7000 closed-circuit video surveillance package that included waterproof outdoor cameras and sensors, and a 25-inch monitor installed inside the main living room. He hired gardeners to add shrubbery and a dense mass of bougainvillea. Increasingly the house was becoming a home. Weekes began sleeping over for days at a time. Sometimes Doorbal crashed there as well.

After dealing with domestic matters and putting in appearances at Sun Gym north of Miami Lakes, Lugo and Doorbal often headed out in the evening to Solid Gold, a North Miami Beach strip club.

Doorbal had his eyes on Beatriz Weiland, a Hungarian import and exotic dancer. Within the competitive environment of female pulchritude at Solid Gold, other performers said Beatriz -- with her big blue eyes, perfect complexion, and full-busted, slim-hipped body -- was one of the most beautiful women in the world.

Lugo set his sights on one of the strippers, too. He'd become enamored of Sabina Petrescu, a 25-year-old dancer who'd modeled for Penthouse. In 1990 she'd scored runner-up in the Miss Romania contest and now longed for life as an actress in the West. She flew from Bucharest to Moscow to Havana to Mexico City before entering the United States in the trunk of a car. For a while she worked as a cocktail waitress in San Diego, until a talent scout approached her about modeling gigs in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. The assignments had all required Sabina to remove her clothes, usually while she danced on a stage. Eventually she wound up in Miami.

The two men certainly had the physiques to match their dream girls: They were incredibly strong, with muscles developed to almost monstrous proportions. Lugo had a broad forehead, brilliant smile, and dark-stubbled jaw. He possessed tremendous charm and a great deal of money: a million already from an old Medicare fraud scheme and now all of Schiller's assets. Although Doorbal was shorter than Lugo, he too had the build of a professional weight lifter, his muscle striations enhanced by his dark skin. He sported a thick head of wavy black hair that fell almost to his waist. Indeed Lugo's sidekick from Trinidad resembled some carved Caribbean virility god.

It was on Super Bowl Sunday that Beatriz told Sabina to go to the Champagne Room; there was someone who wanted to meet her. The Champagne Room was an elevated area within the club that separated the big spenders from the proles below. The guys in the cheap seats tipped with ones and fives as they drank $7.50 beers. Fifty dancers circulated at floor level, offering to perform $10 table dances. But up a few red-carpeted steps, drinks went for $15 and dances cost $20. There was more cuddling and nuzzling -- it was expected and allowed -- in the demimonde of the Champagne Room. Here most of the high rollers, an assortment of pro athletes, drug dealers, tourist businessmen, arms merchants, mobsters, and B-movie actors, were surrounded by several girls. You could buy a bottle of champagne for $1000. Guys who wanted to show off burned $10,000 in an evening easily.

Sabina remembered Lugo. He liked to slip dollar bills into her garter belt while she danced in a cage. Now, surrounded by a phalanx of provocative strippers, he was telling her he only wanted to talk. He was in the music business, he said, and wanted to feature her in a video he'd be filming in London. As the conversation progressed, he periodically handed her twenties. His tab that night ran about $400. When he said goodbye, she gave him a kiss. It was a start.

Within a week they were dating, and soon a relationship bloomed. Lugo warned Sabina that the other men at Solid Gold just wanted to take advantage of her. By February he had her ensconced in a one-bedroom, $800-per-month townhouse apartment that overlooked Main Street in Miami Lakes. Sabina wouldn't have to dance naked anymore. He'd take care of her. In the years since his divorce, he said, he had never felt so close to a woman. They began living together. (It was convenient for Lugo; he could drive just a few miles and be back home with his pregnant wife, Lucretia Goodridge.)

At first everything went well. Something like love, or maybe love itself, flowered. But Sabina didn't understand Lugo's odd hours, his occasional trips to the Bahamas. Why would a music-video producer need night-vision binoculars? And what was happening with that London video shoot he'd promised? She was growing bored in her gilded cage. There had to be more to do than shop and see her hairdresser.

Sabina's frustrations persisted; she demanded an explanation. "Look, if you're ever going to understand me," Lugo told her at last, "if this relationship is ever going to be real, you've got to understand my work. I'm with the Central Intelligence Agency." He'd gone through harrowing missions. One fell apart in a London hotel, and the Company left him on his own to survive on leftovers from room-service trays. On another CIA job in Hong Kong, he'd had to live for a week in a tree.

Lugo swore her to secrecy, and the beautiful Sabina, raised in Romania on a steady diet of American movies, was happy to oblige. A fan of action thrillers, particularly James Bond films, she now had her own real-life man of international intrigue. The spy who loved her even gave her a specialized code for her beeper: When she saw "007" appear on the screen, she knew Lugo was trying to contact her.

By now Adrian Doorbal also had moved nearby, to a two-story townhouse apartment a block away on Main Street. This, Sabina learned, was no coincidence: Doorbal, too, worked for the CIA. Lugo told her the Company figured it was smarter to have the team in close proximity in case they had to act swiftly. And when the guys disappeared for a few days now and then, it was because they were constantly on call; they had to report to headquarters in Langley, Virginia, at a moment's notice. They had no say in when or why; the life of a secret agent wasn't always glamorous.

Doorbal hadn't yet scored a date with Beatriz from Solid Gold, but he did have a steady girl. He'd been dating Cindy Eldridge, whom he'd met at Sundays on the Bay restaurant in Key Biscayne nine months before, on the occasion of her surprise birthday party. The 31-year-old Boca Raton nurse, a pretty blond fitness enthusiast, was taken with the stranger she chanced to meet at her party. And why wouldn't she be? He was a personal trainer, he told her, and co-owned a gym; he was interested in nutrition and bodybuilding. They both liked fast cars, too. Cindy had a red Corvette.

The personal trainer and the nurse had begun dating right away. Soon Doorbal proposed marriage, but Cindy declined -- she was older than he, and they didn't really know each other well enough. The commute between Boca and Miami limited their contact, but Doorbal saw her most weekends and sometimes during the week. Still, she didn't know the real sacrifices he was making for their relationship, those visits he crammed in between Schiller's beatings at the warehouse.

That winter of 1995 their problems began. Cindy wanted to move to Miami so they'd have more time together. But by then Doorbal was living on Main Street and playing the CIA agent for Lugo's girlfriend. (Besides, the distance gave him time to pursue Beatriz.) And there were more problems: Doorbal began having mood swings. He'd abruptly change his mind on any manner of subject. Worse (and there was no delicate way for her to bring this up), he was a flop in the sack. His libido was limp. But Cindy attributed these dark clouds to his steroid use; for bodybuilders it almost was an occupational hazard. She guided him to Dr. Eric Lief in Coral Springs, who specialized in treating long-term steroid abusers with hormone therapy. But the day finally came when Doorbal told her he just couldn't see her again. She was devastated.


While the Sun Gym gang was setting up house in Old Cutler Cove, Miami private investigator Ed Du Bois, who'd advised Schiller to check out of Jackson Memorial Hospital and leave Miami, received a phone call from New York. He was surprised but glad to learn Schiller was safe and healing.

Schiller was on his way to Colombia, to rejoin his family, but wanted to hire the detective to look into his kidnapping. Du Bois told him to write down everything he could remember about his abduction and torture, and to send any documentation he could gather.

A few days later Schiller flew to Colombia. Still on crutches, he was a mess physically and mentally. He'd lost 40 pounds and was down to 120. He had nightmares of that helpless, horrific month in the warehouse. He'd erupt in crying jags in the middle of everyday events. As he convalesced he also tried to put his financial life back together. With the help of his Miami attorney, Schiller discovered momentous changes in the family's lifestyle. There were outrageous charges ($80,000 worth!) on their credit cards: all phone orders, and not one made by him or his wife. His Schlotzsky's Deli franchise had been dissolved. The house now belonged to a Nassau, Bahamas, corporation he knew nothing about. His offshore accounts, in which he'd kept $1.26 million in investments, had been cleaned out. His checking account was empty.

He began compiling documents that followed the transfers of his property to mysterious offshore companies and people he had never met. The MetLife change-of-beneficiary policy gave him a laugh, one of the few since his kidnapping. Sure, he'd signed the form, but his signature didn't even run along the line. It rose almost perpendicular, pointing like a rocket off a launch pad. Several of his canceled checks displayed similar strange signature alignments; he couldn't believe his bank had honored them. And just who was this Lillian Torres, to whom he'd signed over his two-million-dollar life insurance policy and the investment in his La Gorce Palace luxury condominium?

During Super Bowl week Schiller's letter arrived at Du Bois's office, detailing his brutal ordeal and his certainty that Jorge Delgado, his former business partner and friend, was involved. He also named Daniel Lugo, an associate of Delgado, as one of his captors.

Du Bois had no idea who those guys were, but the paper trail led straight to the heart of his professional and personal history. The documents attached to the letter -- copies of title and account transfers -- had been witnessed and notarized by John Mese, an old Miami Shores acquaintance. Du Bois called Schiller and told him that he knew John Mese.

"This guy Mese has to be involved in my kidnapping," said Schiller.

"I can't imagine that," Du Bois replied. John Mese?

He couldn't begin looking into the case until the following week, after the Super Bowl, when he'd wind up his work as the NFL's top security consultant for the Miami extravaganza. He attended the opulent Commissioner's Ball and walked the sidelines during the big game. But Schiller's tale filtered through the festivities. The man's lonely suffering was bizarre and unsettling.

John Mese was the starting point of the Schiller file. Du Bois knew him as an accountant, a former bodybuilder, the owner of Sun Gym, and a promoter of bodybuilding competitions. He'd known Mese and his family for 30 years through the Miami Shores Country Club and the Kiwanis Club. In fact Mese occasionally had used his detective agency. The two men cut similar figures in the intimate Miami Shores community. Both had attended Miami Edison Senior High School. Both were handsome, strong, hard-working, and prosperous. They had pretty wives and wholesome kids. For five years in the Seventies they'd had offices across the street from each other in the Shores' intimate business district.

Du Bois simply could not picture a dark side to him. If anything he thought Mese was a decent, harmless guy whose true passion, bodybuilding, sometimes intruded on his day job. He must have been conned. He couldn't have witnessed Schiller's signatures unless he was present at the warehouse where Schiller had been held captive and tortured. But if he was there, Du Bois wondered, how did he ever get hooked up with those guys? How could he have gotten mixed up in something as cruel and unsavory as the Schiller abduction?

Du Bois called Mese and asked for a meeting, adding cryptically that it might be the most important appointment of his life. "What, Ed, you're going to bring me a new client, like the NFL or the Dolphins?" Mese joked. Du Bois expected to wrap the whole thing up quickly.

The meeting took place on February 2, 1995, at Mese's Miami Shores office. At 57 years old, he was no longer the chiseled muscleman of old. He now resembled a white-haired Norman Rockwell grandfather poised over the Christmas turkey.

Mese didn't know anyone named Marc Schiller. Du Bois handed him Schiller's letter, studying his face as he read. There wasn't much to discern. "Sounds like this guy had a rough time," said Mese.

Did he know Jorge Delgado and Daniel Lugo? To the detective's surprise Mese said yes, Lugo was employed at his gym, and Delgado worked out there. Besides that, they were hard-working businessmen and clients of his. He'd represented both before the IRS.

A silence fell between the men.

"Ed, I still don't figure how I fit into all this," said Mese.

Du Bois handed him a copy of the quit-claim deed to Schiller's house, and Schiller's MetLife change-of-beneficiary form. Mese had notarized both. In all Mese had witnessed and notarized more than two million dollars of Schiller's assets in the past few months.

The accountant's memory suddenly improved. "Actually," he offered, "Lugo and Delgado brought in some Latin guy with a passport for ID." Maybe this was the man Du Bois was asking about.

"Did a woman come with him?" the detective asked. No, Mese said.

Du Bois then pointed to another signature on the deed, that of "Diana Schiller." And he produced a copy of her passport. She'd left the United States on November 18. But her signature appeared on documents dated November 23 and 24.

"John, how did you possibly witness the signature of a woman who was in South America that day?" Du Bois asked. "Was any other woman here impersonating her?"

Mese hesitated. Well, he said, his recollection was vague about the circumstances surrounding Diana Schiller's signature. Perhaps it was signed before he received the papers, or maybe something screwy had happened. He agreed to set up a meeting with Lugo and Delgado to straighten out the matter.

A second meeting was set up for February 13, again at Mese's Miami Shores office. This time Du Bois took precautions. If Lugo and Delgado had committed terrible crimes against Schiller, they were capable of anything. Early in the morning Du Bois rounded the corner past his house and stopped in to see his best friend, Ed O'Donnell, a veteran criminal lawyer. O'Donnell had worked as a major-crimes prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office before switching to private practice. Du Bois told him about the gang, the letter, the documents, his fears. If something happened to him this morning, he wanted the attorney to know the identity of those at the meeting, and the circumstances that took him there.

Du Bois also took care to hire a bodyguard.

Ed Seibert's career included stints as a Washington, D.C., homicide detective and an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. After retiring he freelanced as a security consultant in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Colombia from the mid-1980s through 1991. He'd planned logistics for the Nicaraguan contras and worked as a ballistics expert and weapons instructor for pro-democracy movements. Now he maintained a quiet life in Miami and was active in his church.

As Seibert read the Schiller memo on the way to Mese's office, the brutality of the Sun Gym gang reminded him of his years in Latin America, where such incidents were the common consequence of business, ideology, or drugs. This doesn't happen in America, he thought. Then he adjusted his thinking: This is Miami. Everything goes. But like Du Bois, he noticed something odd -- there was no ransom request. Schiller, it seemed, was completely disposable.

As usual Du Bois didn't carry a gun. As usual Seibert carried two. The detective already had checked out the building's entrances with his own investigators, whose cell phones were programmed to speed-dial the police and emergency services. When everyone was in place, he and Seibert walked in for the appointment.

Mese asked Du Bois and Seibert to wait in the reception area; Lugo and Delgado hadn't arrived. A short time later Mese strolled through to announce Delgado was on his way. Du Bois pulled out a photo of Schiller and asked Mese if he looked familiar. No, Mese couldn't say for sure this was the guy who came to his office with the documents for notarization. "Ed," he laughed, "you know all those Latins look alike."

Delgado arrived alone and Du Bois quickly sized him up. His demeanor was meek; he possessed few if any of the ingredients that establish a strong first impression. He was thin even, certainly not the goon they were expecting. Mese made the introductions, ushered them into an empty office, and left.

Delgado asked to see Schiller's letter as well as the house deed and the change-of-beneficiary form. He took his time inspecting them before handing the papers back to Du Bois. "This is all over a business deal," he said languidly, as if he were dismissing the matter and there was nothing more to say. His tone, his attitude began to grate on the detective.

"Well, is it customary in your business deals," asked Du Bois, "to kidnap someone, keep them hostage for a month, beat them, torture them, try to kill them, and blow them up?"

"I'm not going to comment on that," Delgado replied, growing edgy.

Du Bois jabbed a thick index finger in Delgado's face. "It finally dawned on me as to what really happened here."

"Yeah, really? What?" came the challenge.

"Had you killed Marc Schiller that night, as you had intended, this would have been a perfect crime," Du Bois hissed. "You had his cash, property, cars, home, plus a two-million-dollar bonus if he died. You had his family leave the country, him playing a role about a young girl and a midlife crisis. You had his phone calls diverted from his home to the warehouse, where you had him chained to a wall."

No response.

"If he died you would have been successful," said Du Bois, now sneering. "But guess what, asshole? Schiller is alive and well, and we are going to put your ass in jail!"

Delgado flushed slightly.

Mese rejoined the discussion now, and Delgado, who suddenly was conciliatory and seemed to want out of the room fast, suggested another meeting. He'd bring in Lugo tomorrow to explain the whole situation. They'd meet at Mese's branch office in Miami Lakes.

The next morning at 9:00 Du Bois and Seibert arrived in Miami Lakes. The detective decided to drop his back-up team simply because Delgado had cut such an unimpressive figure. Outside the building he glanced at the tenant directory. A mortgage firm, JoMar Properties, was on the third floor. It was Delgado's company, a holdover from the days when he and Marc Schiller were partners.

Mese was late, and neither Delgado nor Lugo were there. Mese's office was open, however, so they went in. The reception room was dominated by a popcorn machine topped with a glass bubble, and chess sets everywhere -- wood, brass, marble, onyx. Du Bois beat Seibert in two quick games. Growing bored, the detective stepped out to the balcony for some fresh air. Seibert decided to take a walk through the office complex. He went upstairs to check out JoMar Properties. The office was closed. Odd for a weekday, he thought.

Mese finally showed at 10:30 a.m., and expressed surprise to see them. "Gee, Ed, what are you guys doing here?" he asked. It was as if he'd stumbled into fellow members of an Edison High School alumni group while touring Calcutta.

"Listen, John," began Du Bois, noticing that Mese was sweating. "We had a meeting scheduled at nine o'clock. We set it up yesterday, remember? Now where are Lugo and Delgado?"

Mese hastened to assure him the two were on their way. In the interim the detective could go over his client files on Sun Gym, take whatever notes he needed, and request photocopies of anything important. He escorted Du Bois and Seibert to a vacant room and seated them at a desk cluttered with an overflowing ashtray and two champagne glasses stained with the sweet residue of a cordial. Then he left them alone.

Du Bois quickly reviewed the papers, an unremarkable collection of corporate filings, nothing significant. Bored, Seibert began going through the trash can under the desk. He knew garbage could be golden. And sure enough most of the discarded paper contained references to Sun Gym and the Schiller abduction suspects. An envelope from Central Bank contained the January 1995 bank statements of Sun Fitness Consultants, Inc., located at the same address as Sun Gym.

"Look at this!" said Seibert gleefully. They begin to sort through the windfall, spreading papers out on the desk. Du Bois set aside some of the documents, and Seibert got up and locked the door.

Amazingly Mese had ushered them into the room Lugo used for his own office, the very room, in fact, where the gang had planned Schiller's kidnapping. Now it held damaging links between Mese and the abduction. Glancing at the champagne glasses and the ashtray, Du Bois believed two people had been up all night throwing this stuff away. They must have assumed the cleaning crew would be in later.

The candy store of evidence showed that in January 1995, the Sun Gym gang wrote various checks totaling $163,969.57. Du Bois was incredulous. "Now, how does a shit operation like Sun Fitness blow through almost 200 grand in a month?" he asked. The money had to represent a portion of Schiller's stolen fortune.

In part the payees included the cast of characters who starred in the Schiller abduction. Thirty grand alone went to Carl Weekes. The U.S. government also received a portion of the Schiller bounty: A cashier's check for $67,845 paid off Lugo's court-ordered restitution from a 1991 fraud conviction. (Lugo still was on parole and couldn't possibly explain the sudden acquisition of 70 grand on his Sun Gym salary. So his boss, Mese, had purchased the cashier's check. Mese attached a letter stating he'd paid that much for a software program Lugo created for the gym. Through old-fashioned money laundering, they moved the funds from Schiller's Cayman Islands offshore accounts to Sun Fitness Consultants to Mese's Sun Gym account to Central Bank, where Mese & Associates had an operational account and where Mese bought the cashier's check.

The mysterious Lillian Torres, Adrian Doorbal, The Spy Shop, and JoMar Properties also profited from Schiller's forced signatures. Du Bois and Seibert couldn't believe their good fortune. This was like striking oil with the thrust of a teaspoon. They began stuffing the papers into their jacket pockets until they realized there simply was too much product. They filled their briefcases and then unlocked the door. If Du Bois ever harbored doubt about Mese's involvement, it was now gone. He believed his old pal was the CFO of a torture-for-profit gang.

At last Jorge Delgado showed up, alone, and Du Bois, buoyed by Mese's colossal mistake, launched into his list of accusations.

Suddenly Delgado interrupted. "We're not going to talk about this anymore," he said.

"Well, then, why are we here?"

"Because we're going to give you Schiller's money back, the one million dollars."

That sounded as sweet as a confession to Du Bois. "When and where do we get the money?" Schiller, he knew, had no liquidity, and was in need of hard cash.

The return was conditional, Delgado explained. First Du Bois and Schiller would have to sign an agreement that they'd never repeat the story to anyone, certainly not the police. Then, and only then, Schiller would see the $1.26 million from the offshore accounts he'd signed over.

The detective agreed to talk to his client, and Delgado proposed a brief contract. The meeting was over.

Seibert grew even more serious on the drive back to Du Bois's office. Even if these guys could buy their way of out Schiller's suffering, he warned, they'd do it again to someone else. They'd gotten the taste. "The next time," he said, "they'll make damn sure they kill the person."


That evening, as a Valentine's Day present, Lugo presented Sabina with an engagement ring and $1000 in her bank account. And he gave her some good news: They were going to take some time off and go to Orlando. During the drive north, Lugo felt as lucky as a Super Bowl MVP. Not only was he at Disney World with a beautiful woman, but he'd received great news himself. He announced to Sabina the official end of his federal probation. Sabina didn't even wonder how he could be both on federal probation and a CIA agent; the contradiction eluded her. She was just enormously happy for Lugo -- happier even than he was, she said -- as they drove their rented convertible back to Miami.

But the appearance of Du Bois into his serene, post-Schiller existence had begun to rattle Sabina's man of mystery. One day he received a call from Lillian Torres, she of the two-million-dollar MetLife change-of-beneficiary form. An investigator from Du Bois's office had shown up on her doorstep, asking nosy questions. They'd made the connection, which hardly was a stretch, between her and Lugo. His ex-wife Torres had been in on the scheme. How long would it take for them to reach current wife Lucretia Goodridge, who had witnessed Schiller in captivity?

So outraged was Lugo that he called together his cohorts and railed against Schiller and the detective. They were ruining his life. His obsession with Schiller only intensified. One night he showed Sabina a purloined video of a birthday party Schiller had staged for his son, back when the family still lived in Old Cutler Cove. It was a big party, with clowns, cakes, decorations, and presents. "Look at my money!" Lugo complained as the tape played. "Look at that party, how he uses my money!"

By now Du Bois had laid out the gang's proposition to Schiller. But his client wasn't impressed. In fact he thought the offer was no more than a stall tactic while they tried to find him. He had no doubts they'd kill him if they did. On the other hand, he was desperate for cash. And he wanted to go to the cops. What if he could get the money and then go to the police? That way, when the guys were arrested, he wouldn't have to watch them use his money to pay off their lawyers.

Du Bois and Schiller agreed that if they were going to pursue the "payoff," they needed to consult an attorney. Du Bois went back to his friend Ed O'Donnell. The former prosecutor was stunned that Delgado would even ask for such an agreement. "What kind of bozo says to his attorney, 'This Schiller is accusing me of kidnapping him for a month, torturing him, and stealing all his money and property. It's a lie, but I'm going to pay the $1.26 million anyway?'" He wasn't even sure the gang could find a lawyer to draft such a contract, which would cause any attorney to see more red flags than Chairman Mao. More important, O'Donnell said, the "agreement of silence" was unenforceable. Besides, it was a confession Schiller could take straight to the police.

But the Sun Gym gang did find a lawyer: Joel Greenberg, a Plantation attorney in his first year of practice. What Greenberg didn't know was that Lugo, in what the gang considered a stroke of financial genius, had devised a scheme to bamboozle Schiller. He planned to alter the contract to read 1.26 million lire, instead of 1.26 million dollars, thereby reducing the payment to little more than $1200. When Greenberg was let in on the plot, he balked. He'd write the contract, yes, but he wasn't going to get involved with the ridiculous lira gambit. The young attorney did provide Lugo with a contract stripped of dollar signs; if Lugo wanted to add the lire, he could.

The days dragged on and drafts of the contract were faxed between the two camps. Schiller agreed to every new revision, but there was no money coming in. So Du Bois sent Greenberg a letter to warn him that unless the funds were forthcoming, he'd deliver to the Sun Gym gang "a civil RICO complaint so large I'll have to deliver it in a U-Haul." He would pursue the gang as an ongoing criminal enterprise, the type targeted by federal and state racketeering laws.

In mid-March, though, it was the Sun Gym gang that rented a U-Haul, to empty out the Old Cutler Cove house. Through his Miami attorney, Schiller filed a challenge to the deed now held by the Bahamian firm D&J International. With legal threats heating up, the gang knew it was time to get out with what they could.

For the heavy work, Lugo hired a Sun Gym weight lifter who, like Schiller's neighbors, believed the house belonged to Lugo. The bounty he carried out was immense; his load included the 50-inch Mitsubishi television, Persian rugs, bronze sculptures, leather couches, the bedroom furnishings, Cristofle silver, Lalique and Waterford crystal, the dining table, an $8000 buffet, the washer and dryer, a freezer, computers and video games, copiers and a printer, assorted camcorders and smaller TVs, the patio furniture and Jacuzzi, two bicycles, a baby stroller, and the faux Christmas tree and Hallmark ornaments. Even the family photo albums and videos.

They also took Schiller's favorite snakeskin briefcase and his $600 Cartier sunglasses, and Diana's Guccis, and all the kids' clothes. They even removed the light-switch covers. Finally they drove off with Diana's BMW station wagon (the gang enlisted the help of yet another Sun Gym weight lifter, who altered the car's vehicle identification number). It was a brazen haul, totaling more than $150,000, and that didn't include the BMW.

As soon as Schiller won back the title to his house (the gang decided they'd better not respond to his challenge) he sent Du Bois to have a look. The kitchen remained intact; there was even baby food in the refrigerator. Otherwise the place was bare.

It was eerie, this housecleaning job, thought Du Bois, as though Schiller and his family never existed. All the trappings of a lifetime were gone. The Sun Gym gang had wiped out the Schillers far more thoroughly than did Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Back then they'd lost only their windows and doors, and part of their roof.

The detective placed a call to Colombia to deliver the bad news. "What do you mean, Ed, 'cleaned out?'"

"Well, you've got a refrigerator," said Du Bois. "But you don't have any other appliances, there's no furniture, all the clothes are gone, they even ripped out your Jacuzzi."

"What about the paintings?"

"The walls are bare."

The goods ended up at Delgado's Hialeah warehouse -- the same warehouse where they'd kept Schiller chained to a wall all those weeks. Now the gang met to divide the bounty. Doorbal got the leather furniture and the large-screen TV. Lugo took the dining-room table and some paintings. He presented them to Sabina. A few days later, when she learned it all came from that bad guy Marc Schiller's house, she said she didn't want it. But soon after that, when she flew back to Romania to tell her parents she was happy, prosperous, and engaged, Lugo moved even more loot into their apartment.

When she returned from Europe, Sabina received yet another gift from her fiancé: a black BMW station wagon. With its new VIN number, Diana Schiller's Beemer now was street-legal. Sabina was thrilled, until the rainy day when she realized she couldn't operate the wiper blade on the rear window. A sushi restaurant was nearby, and she pulled in. She could sip on some sake, she figured, while she leafed through the operator's manual. But the first thing she saw when she opened the booklet was the name "Marc Schiller" listed as owner. Flustered, she drank more sake. This was unexpected, unwelcome information. She confronted Lugo later that night. Yeah, he said, the BMW used to belong to Schiller.

Meanwhile Du Bois's wife and their children began to notice bulky strangers sitting in cars, watching their Miami Shores house. You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes, or even Watson, to find Du Bois at his Shores residence; he was listed in the phone book. But when a phone-company security supervisor alerted him that someone was trying to gain access to his records for calls to South America, he really began to worry. Did the gang think he could lead them to Schiller? He knew they were capable of anything if they wanted Schiller badly enough. And he knew they'd spent $12,000 at The Spy Shop not long ago. If they'd bought eavesdropping and surveillance equipment, were they using it on his family?

Negotiations for the return of Schiller's $1.26 million had gone nowhere; he still hadn't seen a dime. Du Bois had to admit his client was right: Lugo and Delgado never planned to return the money. The meetings and the faxes sent through Mese's office had been a stall. Now it was time to go to the police. He called Schiller first. Then he called John Mese and told him the deal was off.


Du Bois called Metro-Dade homicide Capt. Al Harper, one of his Miami Shores acquaintances and a 27-year veteran of the police department. After Harper heard the horrific story, he called Metro's elite Strategic Investigations Division. SID conducted all major investigations involving fraud, drug trafficking, contract killings, criminal conspiracy, and organized crime. SID agreed to review the case.

Du Bois's next contact was with SID Det. Kevin Long. The private investigator didn't launch right into the details; he wanted first to establish Schiller as a credible victim. Would SID prepare a polygraph for his client? As a polygraph examiner since 1974, Du Bois knew this would be the most effective demonstration that Schiller's weird, brutal story was true.

Sure, Long said, and then sat back to listen as Du Bois went over the case and what he knew of the suspects. If Schiller agreed to come back to Miami, Long said, he would see him and take the complaint. No problem, said Du Bois, but Schiller was afraid for his life and wanted to make the trip as brief as possible. They set up a three-day interview window: April 18 to 20, 1995.

On Tuesday morning, April 18, Schiller flew into Miami from Colombia and checked into the Miami International Airport Hotel under an assumed name. He brought along a Colombian relative for protection, and walked straight from the airplane to Concourse E, where the hotel is located. That afternoon Du Bois met his client for the first time. The two men shook hands, and Du Bois noted that Schiller was thin but otherwise a physically unremarkable man, except for a deep burgundy notch on his nose, a souvenir of the duct tape that had been wrapped so tightly around his head during his captivity. Schiller was invigorated by the decision to go to the police. But he also was wary, afraid he might die in Miami.

At the SID office, they were met by Sgt. Gary Porterfield, who asked Schiller to wait outside while he talked to Du Bois in his office. Du Bois handed over a copy of the case file, then began the narrative of his investigation. As Porterfield took notes, Du Bois outlined the history: Marc Schiller disappeared on the afternoon of November 14, 1994. During his captivity, he signed over everything he owned to individuals connected with Sun Gym. On December 15 he reappeared, broken, in the emergency room at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Du Bois had information on the Sun Gym members: Daniel Lugo, Adrian Doorbal, Jorge Delgado; and on Sun Gym's owner, John Mese. Others were involved as well. They'd be easy to track down and question. He also gave Porterfield a twenty-page memo and canceled checks, deed transfers, accident reports, and hospital records. And he had a copy of Lugo's federal rap sheet and divorce documents.

An hour later Porterfield summoned Schiller to provide a statement. He too spent an hour with the sergeant. Porterfield promised to spend the next day investigating the case. They planned to polygraph Schiller on Thursday. The next day, however, Porterfield called with bad news. There were scheduling difficulties. Would Schiller stay over until Friday morning for the polygraph? Schiller canceled his flight and made a new reservation for Friday afternoon.

On Friday Du Bois and Schiller arrived at SID for the polygraph test. Instead Porterfield met them with more bad news: SID wasn't going to take the case after all; they'd decided to refer it to the robbery bureau.

The robbery bureau? Du Bois was dumbfounded. "Gary, are you kidding me?" he asked. "You're going to transfer a complex, nasty case like this to robbery, which is already dealing with 10,000 purse snatchings and smash-and-grabs? You're shit-canning this case. Why?"

Porterfield said his supervisor, Lt. Ed Petow, had concluded that the basic elements of the case were robbery. Yeah, Du Bois thought, and Oswald was guilty of illegally discharging a firearm in a public place. "Face it," he said, "the bottom line of almost every crime is an attempt to illegally gain money or property." But this case was brutally different.

Du Bois knew he'd just heard the death knell to any serious investigation. Worse yet, it would leave the goons on the street. They still had Schiller's money, but when that ran out, they'd snatch and torture someone else.

Porterfield led them to Metro-Dade Police headquarters, a couple of miles away, as Du Bois followed in his car. Schiller couldn't believe they'd blown him off after the information they'd provided.

"Hey, Ed, I mean ... robbery?" Schiller began. "This is kidnapping, attempted murder, conspiracy ... torture."

Du Bois tried to cheer him up but was in shock himself. In the short drive to police headquarters, the solid professional landscape he'd cultivated over the past two decades had metamorphosed into a surreal, receding mirage.

As Porterfield escorted them to the robbery bureau, Du Bois noticed a lone detective seated in the waiting area. The man was smirking at them and softly clapping his hands. Schiller went to his interview, and Porterfield walked off down the hall with the detective who'd just applauded their arrival. Du Bois approached the bureau's secretary. "Why was that detective clapping and staring at us?" he asked.

"Well, don't tell anyone I told you," she replied as she peered over her shoulder, "but SID called over here this morning and said we should expect an Academy Award-winning performance and story from Mr. Schiller today."

That's it, Du Bois, thought. This investigation is doomed. SID had poisoned the Schiller case. But why? He had to get outside for some air. He had to think.

It was there, on a balcony, that homicide Capt. Al Harper, who'd first suggested the case go to SID, came upon him. Du Bois was pacing, confused and angry. "What are you doing here?" Harper asked, surprised to see him.

"This is where SID sent us."

"Something's wrong," said Harper. "That case doesn't belong in robbery."

Schiller was having a rough time of his own with Sgt. Jim Maier, head of a task force designed to stop tourist robbers, and robbery Det. Iris Deegan. Three times during the interview, Deegan interrupted to warn him it was a crime to file a false complaint. The police don't have time to ride around pursuing every wild story we hear, she said.

Schiller might have expected skepticism from his State Farm claims agent, but not from the police. "Listen," he said, "do me one favor. Follow up on Du Bois's leads. These are dangerous people; other people could be harmed. If you're wasting your time, throw me in jail." Why on earth weren't Deegan and Maier eager to arrest these guys? Why were they so insulting? Why were they making the victim feel like a criminal?

Finally he had to ask: "Do you think I'm making this whole thing up? Do you think, what, I don't know, I've got this huge imagination?"

"Yeah," Deegan said, "we think you're making it up."

There was still the question of the polygraph, which Ed Du Bois had requested from the outset. No one seemed to recall that now. Sergeant Maier turned around and challenged Schiller: Would he be willing to undergo a polygraph?

"Give it to me now!" he said. "I've got nothing to hide!" This was, in fact, just why he'd stayed over an extra day.

There was a catch, though. The test would have to wait, not until later that day or anytime over the weekend. He'd have to come back the following Tuesday. Weeks ago, when he'd set up the trip, SID knew he had a narrow window. It was Friday and he'd already extended the visit, and on his own dime. He was broke. The Sun Gym gang had his money and probably was looking for him.

To hell with them all. He was going home.

Schiller emerged from the interview room looking stunned and close to tears. Maier followed him and told Du Bois that unless his client was in Miami the following Tuesday for more interviews and a polygraph, the police weren't going to take his complaint any further. One look at Schiller, and Du Bois knew he wasn't about to stay around for more of whatever they'd just dished out.

Du Bois turned to Maier: "Tell me, just what is wrong with this case?"

"I don't speak to private eyes," the sergeant answered.

"Is that a personal policy or a department policy?" asked Du Bois. The conversation was giving him chills. He had a long history with Metro police; he'd worked as an outside contractor hundreds of times. He'd solved capital cases. Now they thought his client was a laughingstock, and they lacked even the decency to offer some crumb to pacify him. Yet the crimes against Schiller involved violations of almost every Florida felony statute.

Du Bois was running out of time. He drove Schiller back to his office and called the Miami bureau of the FBI, but his contact there was out of town. Next he called Fred Taylor, director of the Metro-Dade Police Department. Du Bois knew Taylor socially and professionally. The director listened as Du Bois detailed their treatment at the robbery bureau and said he'd put in a call to robbery Cmdr. Pete Cuccaro. Minutes later Cuccaro was on the line, assuring the detective he had his best robbery people -- Deegan and Maier -- working the case. Du Bois rolled his eyes.

Late in the afternoon back at his hotel, Schiller finished packing for his flight. Then he placed a call to JoMar Properties. He hadn't spoken to his former friend and employee Jorge Delgado since before the kidnapping. Now, in between expletives, he announced that he'd gone to the police with accusations of kidnapping, extortion, and attempted murder. Not only that, but he'd turned over copies of forged documents and Sun Gym checks. He also made a call to John Mese. Mese hung up on him.

Then Schiller left to board his flight.

In her defense, it must be said, Det. Iris Deegan had some cause -- not much, but some -- to doubt Schiller's account. Why had he waited four months after the alleged crime to make a complaint? Why had he agreed to a financial settlement before coming to the police? To her, Schiller's tale was "bizarre ... like something you read about in a book." On top of that, SID already had rendered its own verdict on the story. And frankly, in Miami Colombians were almost always associated with cocaine and drug trafficking. Schiller had told her that a portion of the stolen $1.26 million, which he'd invested in offshore and Swiss accounts, belonged to his wife's Colombian relatives.

Wednesday, April 26, 1995


How can you be so complacent about the mess you are in? I called you Friday, Monday, and Tuesday and you still have not contacted your attorney. Are you stupid or naive enough to think this problem is going to go away?

You decide, return what is not yours now! or face the music.

Tick, tick, tick ...


On the same day Schiller sent his note to Mese warning that his time was running out, Detective Deegan began investigating Schiller's claims, despite the fact that he had left for Colombia in disgust without waiting for a polygraph test as the cops had requested.

Deegan paid a visit to Schiller's home in Old Cutler Cove. The house appeared abandoned; indeed the Sun Gym gang had emptied it weeks before. When Deegan interviewed Schiller's neighbors, they identified Lugo from a police photo lineup. Yes, he was a G-man, they said. Yes, they'd accepted UPS deliveries for him, packages addressed to Marc Schiller. Yes, they recalled, Schiller and his family had disappeared sometime before the previous Thanksgiving. Check ... check ... check. Right down the list of allegations.

By May 4 Deegan was at last convinced that something serious, something possibly criminal, had taken place. She filed her third (it would be her final) report on Case No. 195623-R, noting that she'd subpoenaed Schiller's bank and credit-card accounts, as well as UPS invoices and delivery notices. She'd also asked American Express to supply statements about purchases made between November 1994 and January 1995. Then she moved on to her other robbery cases. She never questioned the suspects. When Du Bois called to check on her progress, she said she was waiting for the records requests to be processed and delivered. End of story.

"Why do you keep investigating my client?" he asked. "Why don't you go out on the street, show your badge to these guys, read them their Miranda rights, and ask them some questions before these animals strike again?"

"Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?" she countered.

"No, but it sure doesn't seem like you're doing it right." He was sorry, he said, that he hadn't thought to bring her a bloody victim, warehouse videos, or signed confessions.

By now Du Bois had presented his facts and documents to FBI agent Art Wells, a twelve-year veteran. Wells thought, and later said, "It's like something you see in a made-for-TV movie." He chose not to pursue an investigation either. Du Bois had never flown into the teeth of such bureaucracy. He kept on predicting, to anyone in law enforcement who would still take his calls, that the gang would target some new victim. He couldn't figure it out. He'd spent 35 years working in Miami, assisting the police. He'd never cried wolf. But he knew this pack of wolves was gathering at somebody's door, and he prayed his family wouldn't get in their way.


Du Bois was right about the wolves. Lugo already had begun searching for his next victim, and this time he didn't have to look beyond Sun Gym. Winston Lee, a vegetarian from Jamaica, came in regularly to lift weights. Lee owned a prosperous auto-repair shop in Opa-locka, and though he wasn't nearly as rich as Marc Schiller, he was rich enough. And besides, he'd aggravated Doorbal, who was convinced he'd heard the Jamaican making fun of his intellect. Worse than that, Lugo said, Lee supposedly sold drugs in the black community. That was enough for Jorge Delgado. He was in. This time, though, they'd keep Stevenson Pierre and Carl Weekes out of it; they'd done nothing but prove their incompetence.

By April, Lugo had a concept. He'd borrow a uniform and truck from another member of the gym and have Delgado pose as a UPS delivery man at Lee's front door. Then Lugo and Doorbal and would rush the house when Lee opened the door. Next stop for Lee? A warehouse Lugo planned to lease in Hialeah for the next round of torture.

To his mistress Sabina, however, Lugo furnished a different story: The CIA wanted to capture Winston Lee, known Palestinian terrorist. And on behalf of the Company, he recruited her help. The plan gave her pause, but then she thought about her patriotism toward her new country and her gratitude toward Lugo, who'd gotten her out of stripping at Solid Gold and into a rent-free love nest. She accepted the mission.

With Sabina in the mix, Lugo devised Plan No. 2. Lugo would move her next door to Lee, and she'd befriend him using her considerable charms. Eventually she would lure him to her apartment, at which time Lugo and Doorbal would burst in and subdue him. They'd take him to an agency warehouse, where the CIA would secure him and take him away to the place where they put terrorists.

Meanwhile Lee continued his workouts at the gym, oblivious to the plans. He thought, in fact, that Lugo and Doorbal were okay guys. But the Okay Guys were staking out his Miami Lakes townhouse. They photographed the building from the road and from his shrubbery. They took pictures of every window and door, as well as closeups of his outdoor circuit-breaker box and the junctions where his phone lines ran into the house.

But the gang had to abandon Winston Lee as a target. He traveled frequently to Jamaica and they couldn't fix a date when he'd be home. Nor was Lugo able to secure a space for Sabina in the building. It was just too confusing.

Then Adrian Doorbal found another target.


Doorbal had at last won the impossibly beautiful Beatriz Weiland, the exotic dancer from Hungary who entertained at Solid Gold. His great looks and bodacious physique finally were paying off big-time. He had a gorgeous stripper -- maybe the hottest stripper in the joint! -- naked in bed. What didn't he have? An erection. The same problem that had plagued him in previous months reappeared. He paid another visit to the Coral Springs physician who specialized in treating steroid-induced impotence, received hormone injections, and soon was performing like a champ.

At Beatriz's place one day, Doorbal began leafing through a photo album. Staring out from the pages was a matronly lady lounging in front of a car as bright as the sun. The woman was Beatriz's mother, but it was the car that caught Doorbal's attention. Who owns it? he asked. Beatriz pointed to another photo in the album and identified the owner, a fellow Hungarian named Frank Griga. He'd been one of her lovers and she still spoke of him affectionately. Griga had achieved fantastic wealth through the phone-sex business, and was the most generous man she'd ever known. The sun-bright car was his $250,000, 1991 Lamborghini Diablo.

The son of a Hungarian diplomat, Griga was born in Berlin in 1961. He moved to New York City in the mid-Eighties, working first as a car washer then as a foreign-car mechanic. But he wasn't destined to toil under a hood. In 1988 he moved to Miami and got a job in sales at Prestige Imports, a luxury-car dealership in North Miami Beach. Working among all those gleaming machines -- Lotuses, Ferraris, Mercedes, Rolls-Royces -- proved frustrating, however. He wanted to own them, not sell them.

Socially active in Miami's tiny Hungarian community, Griga joined a group of local investors, some of whom he'd known from childhood, in the burgeoning 800- and 900-number phone-line markets. He began with 976-CARS, which charged callers for information on used autos. Next he delved into weather-information lines for boaters and surfers. Even more profitable were the 976-SEX lines he established with Hungarian friend Gabor Bartusz. They advertised their services in Penthouse and Hustler, and callers spent up to five dollars per minute to engage in sexually explicit conversations with telephone actors and actresses. Some of Griga's girlfriends appeared in the advertisements, as did some of his cars. Many Hungarians in Miami thought he was the Alexander Graham Bell of phone sex. The business earned Griga and Bartusz a fortune. In 1994 alone, they took in three million dollars.

Griga began to collect luxury automobiles, among them a $200,000 royal blue Vector, a rare, handmade, experimental sports car; a Dodge Stealth for running errands; and the Lamborghini Diablo. He also bought a $700,000 mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway in tony Golden Beach, one of Florida's most exclusive communities. He owned a yacht, Foreplay, and a condo in the Bahamas.

His girlfriends were beautiful, as sensual and sculpted as the cars he owned. He preferred babes, some of them strippers, and after he and Beatriz had parted ways, she introduced him to Krisztina Furton at Crazy Horse II, a Fort Lauderdale strip joint. The two quickly fell in love and became inseparable.

Krisztina, from a Hungarian military family, was 21 years old when she came to Miami in 1993. She was penniless and spoke no English, and arrived with only the promise of a job as an exotic dancer, a typical steppingstone for pretty foreign girls who lack green cards. (In the high-end clubs, the women work for tips alone, thus no W-2 forms.) At Crazy Horse II the slender brunette learned about American life and economics. She saved up for implants and a nose job as well. Within a year she had the money for both.

Doorbal also learned from Beatriz that Griga occasionally hung out at Solid Gold, enjoying the scenery and scouting for models for his phone-line advertisements. An entrepreneur, he was always looking for new investment opportunities.

But while Doorbal was thrilled with Beatriz, she was having doubts about him. She was bothered by the weapons in his car, and in his townhouse. "Hey, Miami's a dangerous place," he told her. "I need them for protection." Still she wasn't comfortable. To compound matters, he continued to pester her with questions about Frank Griga. It was as if he were writing a book on the man. He wanted to meet Griga, he said. He and Lugo wanted to do business with him. But Beatriz didn't talk much to Frank anymore; besides, she thought Krisztina was jealous of her past with him. To placate Doorbal, she said she'd ask her estranged husband, Attila Weiland, to do the honors.

Weiland was working as a small-time travel agent. His office was located conveniently near Dr. Lief's, where Doorbal was scheduled to receive another magical injection. Weiland agreed to meet Doorbal in the doctor's parking lot. He understood that time was money to a busy entrepreneur and didn't think it odd to meet his ex-wife's lover at a doctor's office. He too was dying to develop a business connection with Griga. At Hungarian social functions, Weiland often asked him for advice. "The first $100,000 is the hardest, Attila," Griga would say. And he offered to lend a hand if Weiland had a worthy business proposition.

Weiland didn't quite grasp the proposal Doorbal wanted to pitch. Hell, Doorbal admitted, he didn't understand the specifics as well as his cousin, Danny Lugo. He just knew it was a bona fide moneymaker. It had to do with phone lines in India, and a company called Interling International. Perfect, thought Weiland; Griga was familiar with phone-line success, and he was looking to branch out from the phone-sex business. This thing with Doorbal and his cousin might be the ticket. Weiland offered to put in a good word.

By now, though, Beatriz was quite fed up. She was suspicious of Doorbal's apparently limitless income. She didn't believe for one minute that he and Lugo were international tycoons. He tried to tell her he'd never worked so hard in his life, that he was working on one last big score that would allow him to retire and live on a private island. He figured it would take two months, tops. Yet as far as Beatriz could tell, all he seemed to do was work out at Sun Gym and hang out at Solid Gold. Finally he made the big confession: Like Lugo, he was an agent with the CIA. She didn't buy it. Okay, he explained to her, "I'm a subcontractor to the CIA, through Danny Lugo."

The guns, the impotence, the unexplained funds, the supposed CIA connection -- Beatriz decided Adrian Doorbal wasn't mysterious at all. He was ridiculous, and maybe he was dangerous. She amicably dissolved their relationship. Doorbal took the breakup well; he still had Attila Weiland.


In May 1995 Doorbal suddenly lobbied "Big Mario" Sanchez, who'd earned $1000 for his part the afternoon they kidnapped Marc Schiller, to become his workout partner, a serious commitment of time and interest in the world of huge muscle guys. These days Doorbal was driving a pearl-color Nissan 300 ZX. He liked it fine, but what he really wanted, he told his newest pal, was a bright-yellow Lamborghini Diablo. Before long Doorbal told Sanchez he and Lugo had another "job" coming up and asked if he wanted to serve as an "intimidator." Sanchez said he never wanted to get involved in anything like that abduction thing again. Doorbal offered him $5000, but Sanchez said no.

Doorbal and Lugo needed assistance to pull off another takedown. They were getting so desperate they even considered Carl Weekes. But Weekes's self-improvement journey to Miami hadn't gone well. He was back to boozing, and he'd recently been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, a gun he bought because he was terrified of the Sun Gym gang. He suspected he'd been recruited to Miami by the gang specifically to kidnap Schiller. Only one good thing had come out of that nastiness: He did get $50,000. He now was driving a BMW.

Lugo took Weekes to Solid Gold and told him Doorbal had targeted another victim. Like Sanchez, Weekes declined the offer. He thought they might be planning to kill him, along with the Hungarian.

"Look, Sabina," began Lugo one day in their Main Street apartment after he'd returned from another trip to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. "You always ask if you can help me. Well, I need your help now." With those words Lugo conscripted Sabina Petrescu into her second undercover operation for the United States of America. This time, he told her, it was the FBI that wanted him to capture someone, some guy named Frank Griga, a Golden Beach businessman who used women for sex, especially Hungarian women. Besides that, he was circumventing U.S. tax laws. (Lugo confided that he might personally extract some money from Griga before turning him over to the FBI.)

Sabina was excited about this assignment. She was aching to display her patriotism, she was bored, she was ... dim. (She was that special type of woman about whom a prosecutor would one day say in court: "You see, God blessed Sabina Petrescu with a beautiful face and a beautiful body, but not with any book smarts or common sense.") She'd felt let down when the operation to capture Palestinian terrorist Winston Lee folded. She'd begged to participate in the surveillance missions on him.

Lugo filled her in on the new job. They would snatch Griga and his girlfriend from Griga's mansion. After Lugo and Doorbal entered the front door, Sabina would wait until she saw the garage door open and Doorbal driving a Lamborghini out into the driveway. Then she would back Lugo's gold Mercedes into the garage. Griga and the girlfriend would be stashed in the trunk of the Mercedes. They'd be handcuffed, gagged, tranquilized, and blindfolded.

"When you see it, Sabina, you will be frightened," cautioned Lugo. "They will be tied up, they'll have tape over their mouths, but they'll be okay."

"What about the girl?" she asked. "Why her? She doesn't have anything to do with this. He's the one the FBI wants."

"She's the girlfriend and she'll know," said Lugo. "We can't just let her go; she would talk. But we won't hurt her."

On Friday, May 19, Attila Weiland drove out to the Golden Beach house to attend a surprise party for Frank Griga's 33rd birthday. Krisztina Furton had arranged the party with Judi and Gabor Bartusz, their closest friends. A dozen Hungarians were in attendance, and Weiland made sure to take Griga aside and tell him he knew a couple of guys who wanted to pitch a business deal. Sure, Griga said, he'd listen. They agreed that Weiland would bring them by the next day.

At 6:30 the following evening, Attila Weiland sat in the back seat of Lugo's Mercedes, giving directions to the house. Up front with Lugo was his "cousin" Adrian Doorbal. As they pulled into the driveway, a mechanic was working on Griga's canary-yellow Lamborghini, the car Doorbal coveted.

For this meeting the weight lifters had abandoned their muscle shirts and jeans in favor of tailored suits and ties. They looked like a pair of Wall Street dynamos in their elegant threads. Doorbal even wore Marc Schiller's Presidential Rolex. Griga, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, was taken aback by their striking entrance. He even pulled Weiland aside to tell him these guys sure did know how to dress to impress. And they seemed like nice guys, to boot.

Lugo did the talking, explaining that he and Doorbal were offering a lucrative investment opportunity through Interling International, Inc. (which actually was a legitimate telecommunications company expanding into India). He provided authentic Interling color brochures with pie charts and text indicating phenomenal growth potential; its only real competition was AT&T. They were seeking only serious investors; he'd have to chip in between $500,000 and $1,000,000 to get in. Griga was interested. He might even want to invest more than a million, particularly if they could develop some action with cell-phone use in South Asia. Lugo agreed to look into that possibility.

As a bonus, Krisztina gave Lugo and Doorbal a guided tour of the mansion, a perfect ending to the visit.

On the drive home Doorbal was psyched. He told Weiland they'd remember it was he who'd made this introduction possible, that he'd be taken care of if the deal went through. The future looks bright, the future looks bright, Doorbal kept repeating. They dropped Weiland off at his apartment. They had a lot of work to do back on Main Street.

Once they arrived home, Lugo told Sabina the abduction of the Golden Beach couple would "go down tomorrow." That evening she watched in her living room as he and Doorbal packed their FBI equipment: guns, handcuffs, rope, syringes, and Rompun, a tranquilizer used to sedate horses and other large animals.

On the way to Griga's house the next morning, Sunday, May 21, they realized they'd forgotten duct tape, so they pulled into a store on Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Doorbal got out of the Mercedes. Sabina waited in the car with Lugo when suddenly he let out a shriek; Doorbal's gun clearly was visible in the back of his pants. Lugo raced to intercept him before he entered the store. Even in South Florida, a handgun rising from one's waistband is sometimes cause for alarm.

They drove on toward Golden Beach without incident, and Lugo called Griga from his cell phone to ask if they could stop by. No problem. Lugo shoved a CD into the car stereo and played the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane." Now they had a soundtrack for the mission as they drove through the security gate. From the back seat Sabina watched the men exchange glances and grins. She'd never seen them look so happy.

When they arrived at the house, the two men quickly got out of the car. She saw Lugo, who was carrying a laptop computer in one hand, stick a gun into the waistband of his nylon sports pants with the other. As he and Doorbal approached the front door, Lugo clumsily knocked over a garbage can. Krisztina answered the door.

Sabina waited nervously for five, ten, fifteen minutes. She imagined the plan unfolding inside the house: Doorbal would take care of the woman while Lugo handled Griga. But the garage door never opened. Instead Lugo and Doorbal came out empty-handed.

"We should have done it! We should have done it!" Doorbal yelled on the drive back to Miami Lakes. No, argued Lugo, the timing wasn't right. But he had a new plan. He got on the cell phone again and called Griga to invite him and Krisztina to dinner that evening. They could meet in Miami Lakes, at Shula's Steak House, and talk over the Interling deal.

Griga accepted the invitation for dinner, even though the computer he'd just received as a gift seemed odd to him, inappropriate. He'd sat through plenty of preliminary business discussions over the years, and had never been rewarded like this. He called Attila Weiland for an explanation. Weiland in turn called Doorbal, who assured him the computer was merely an expression of their desire to do business, that they really liked the guy.

After Griga heard back from Weiland, he remained unsure. The gesture was over the top, but he and Krisztina would still join the two businessmen at Shula's. Who, after all, looks a gift horse in the mouth?

That evening, before dinner, Sabina sat on Doorbal's couch as Lugo explained her role to her. When the foursome returned from the steak house, Sabina was to pretend she was Lugo's Russian wife. She would befriend Krisztina, "make her feel good," until the men lured Griga into another room to take him down.

Sabina waited for hours. Lugo showed up at midnight alone, looking "distressed" and saying the dinner went well but he'd had a fight with Doorbal. Yet another mission aborted.

Over the next few days, Griga studied the Interling International corporate information package. He even ran the proposal by a stockbroker friend for his opinion. Lugo and Doorbal appeared well-off, the investment looked solid, and Lugo seemed to have an excellent grasp of the stock market and finances. Griga decided he'd meet again with the musclebound businessmen.

On the morning of Wednesday, May 24, 1995, Griga traveled to Allied Marine in Fort Lauderdale, where he bought $800 in Jet Ski accessories -- helmets, a kidney belt, a case of marine oil. At 6:30 p.m. he went to the Johnson Street boat ramp in Hollywood Beach with Lloyd Alvarez, a friend who sold and worked on personal watercraft. Alvarez dropped him off to take delivery of a $6000 Sea-Doo XP800, then drove back to the house to meet him after a test ride down the inland waterway to his back-yard dock. When Griga rode up with the Sea-Doo, Krisztina took it out for a spin before they hoisted it out of the water.

At about 8:00 p.m., Alvarez met two visitors, Danny and Adrian, who'd come by the house to accompany Frank and Krisztina to dinner. While Griga went upstairs to change, the men downstairs discussed Jet Skis and electronics. Lugo and Doorbal were fascinated by Alvarez's digital beeper and its displays. They talked about owning a fledgling watercraft business of their own, and asked Alvarez for his business card.

Some 45 minutes later, Krisztina and Griga came downstairs. She was wearing a red-leather miniskirt and jacket with a large gold eagle embossed on the back. She also wore red heels and carried a matching red-leather handbag. Griga wore a blue-denim shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. But just as they were departing, someone knocked on the door. It was neighbor Judi Bartusz, out walking her dog. She'd seen all the cars and stopped by to say hello. She knew Lloyd Alvarez and was introduced to Lugo and Doorbal, guys with a phone deal in South Asia. Griga said he'd be sure to tell Judi's husband Gabor more about it after tonight's business dinner.

And more company came: Eszter Toth, the Hungarian housekeeper, unexpectedly arrived with her four-year-old. She too deserved an introduction. Then the phone rang; it was Griga's stockbroker friend. No, he couldn't join them for dinner; he was tied up with work. But he'd speak to Griga tomorrow about the Interling deal.

Griga began to usher the small crowd out of his foyer. "Happy Birthday" banners from the surprise party still hung from the ceiling in the dining room. He patted the dog, Chopin, goodbye, then got into the Lamborghini Diablo with Krisztina, and followed Doorbal and Lugo to Shula's Steak House.

When Judi Bartusz got home, she unleashed her dog and went to talk to her husband. She told him she'd stopped in at Griga's just as the couple was leaving on a dinner date. She thought Frank seemed nervous, and she didn't like his new partners, Adrian and Danny.

"What's wrong with them?" asked Gabor.

"I'm not sure why," said Judi, "but Frank wasn't the same. I think Frank is in a world of trouble."


Hungarian businessman Frank Griga and his girlfriend Krisztina Furton were not so fortunate as Marc Schiller. Shula's was closed by the time they arrived, so the party moved to Doorbal's Main Street townhouse apartment, one flight of stairs above Ritchie Swimwear, a bikini shop.

As Lugo and Furton watched television on Schiller's 50-inch Mitsubishi, Doorbal and Griga walked into another room to talk business. Soon, though, even Schiller's SurroundSound speakers couldn't muffle the discordant noises rising from the next room. A fierce argument was under way. Then loud crashing noises. Lugo and Krisztina rushed in and found the two men in a vicious fight. Blood was running down Griga's head where he'd been smashed above the ear with a hard, blunt object. Krisztina glanced around the room. Blood splattered the computer screen and the sliding glass doors. There was blood on the walls. It was all Griga's.

As she watched in horror, Doorbal took her lover in a headlock and proceeded to strangle him. She screamed. Lugo clamped a hand over her mouth and tackled her. She was handcuffed and her feet bound with duct tape. They wrapped the tape over her eyes and mouth as well. Then Doorbal injected her with Rompun. Within moments she was unconscious. They pulled a ninja hood down over her head. For good measure they gave Griga a hefty squirt of Rompun, too.

Targets apprehended. Mission accomplished at last!

After taking a breather and surveying the messy scene, Lugo and Doorbal checked on their prize catch, the man who would soon be hauled off to a warehouse where he would gently be persuaded to provide them with untold riches; the man who, along with his luckless girlfriend, would also be dead before long.

To their everlasting disappointment they discovered they'd overdone it: Griga was dying. And they hadn't gotten a single penny out of him. They'd taken everything from Schiller but couldn't kill him. Maybe someday they'd get it right.

At the moment, though, they had Krisztina, and she was alive. Eventually, of course, they'd have to kill her too, a witness to her boyfriend's murder and all. But first they wanted information about the house, particularly the front-door keypad numbers.

In the meantime Griga presented a disposal problem. They dumped him into Doorbal's bathtub as the rest of his blood drained out in a spiral.

Two miles away Jorge Delgado waited at home for a phone call. He was supposed to assist Lugo and Doorbal once they subdued Griga and Krisztina, then help transport the couple to Lugo's warehouse for a preliminary round of torture and extortion, just as they'd done with Marc Schiller. But the phone never rang, so he went to bed.

Sabina woke up sometime in the night and realized Lugo hadn't returned home from his dinner with the "bad Hungarian man and his girlfriend." She got up and found her secret agent man on the living-room couch. He was drinking in the darkness and crying softly. Doorbal had done "something crazy," he moaned.

Sabina asked if the man and woman were still alive.

Lugo turned to face her. "Do you really want to know, Sabina?" he said. She'd never heard that tone before. He stared into her blue eyes. "Are you sure you really want to know?"

Information for this story was drawn from interviews with principal characters, investigative reports, court documents, and trial testimony. Next week: The Sun Gym gang must dispose of the bodies; a quickie wedding and an alibi could save the day; and kidnap victim Marc Schiller returns to Miami and gets far more than he bargained for.


Pain & Gain, Part 3

A wealthy couple disappears, the slumbering Metro-Dade Police Department awakens, and the ghastly deeds of Miami's Sun Gym gang at last come to an end.

Golden Beach millionaire Frank Griga thought he was getting into a lucrative overseas investment deal when he agreed to meet with Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal. He didn't know they actually were a couple of bodybuilding thugs who planned to steal everything he owned. Now Griga is dead, his girlfriend near death. And the Sun Gym gang is in despair. This is the second torture-for-profit kidnapping they've botched. There are bodies to dispose of, evidence to conceal. And too many people are asking questions.

May 24, 1995

It was after 9:00 p.m. when the phone rang. Jorge Delgado had been waiting for the call that would tell him the meeting at Don Shula's Steak House in Miami Lakes was going according to plan, and that two new victims -- Frank Griga and his live-in girlfriend Krisztina Furton -- were being wined and dined and prepped for their final journey. Daniel Lugo was on the line: Did Delgado know how to drive a Lamborghini? Delgado wasn't sure. Well, be ready; we may need your help in the morning.

Pretty soon, he figured, his Sun Gym pals -- Lugo and Doorbal -- and their dinner guests would be ordering from the menu. Later the foursome would drive from the restaurant to Doorbal's nearby townhouse, ostensibly to put final signatures on Griga's investment in the South Asia telecom deal. He wouldn't know it was all bogus until the very last instant, when they'd grab him. Then he and the girl would be bound and gagged and readied for transfer to the warehouse in Hialeah. Once the guys got the couple there, the rest would be easy, just as it should have been with Miami businessman Marc Schiller: Beat and torture them until they signed over everything they owned -- and then, of course, find a way to make their deaths appear accidental.

When Delgado's phone finally rang the next morning, it was Lugo again. But he had awful news. There'd been a struggle at Doorbal's place. Griga was already dead. The girl was unconscious; they had her shot full of Rompun, a horse tranquilizer, to keep her quiet. Things couldn't be worse. Schiller somehow had survived their attempts to murder him and was coming after his assets they'd stolen. God, he hated Schiller! And now they had one corpse, maybe another on the way, and not a dime to show for it.

Delgado raced to the townhouse to help with damage control. The temperature was the first thing he noticed. The place was as cold as a meat locker; it was the air conditioner going full blast. From the entry he watched as Doorbal, bundled like an Eskimo, came downstairs with a woman slung over his shoulder: the girlfriend. Her mouth, wrists, and ankles were bound with duct tape. She was unconscious.

Griga, whose money they'd targeted, lay dead in a bathtub. Well, at least they had the girl. Of course they'd have to kill her, a witness to the murder and all, but she could give them information first. Like the alarm code to the couple's Golden Beach waterfront mansion. Doorbal dropped her at the foot of the stairs and she started to come to. They pulled back the tape from her mouth, but immediately she became hysterical. Where's Frank? I ve got to see Frank! The last thing she'd seen was the blood-splattered bedroom, her lover's smashed skull, and Doorbal strangling him in a headlock.

Lugo ordered another shot of the tranquilizer, and Doorbal injected her in the ankle. Krisztina screamed in pain. They yanked her up into a sitting position and began to press her for answers. What's the security code? What are the numbers? She didn't understand. She needed to see Frank. Look, Frank's fine, they said, she'd see him soon. But first they had to get into the house. Poor Krisztina spoke mainly Magyar, the language of her native Hungary. She knew little English. Dazed and delirious, she was now incoherent in any language. The Rompun made her thirsty, made it hard to talk. She could scarcely breathe. Her heart rate was slow and weak. They made her swallow water; they slapped her to get her focused. In halting, slurred speech, she recited some numbers. Lugo wrote them down on a yellow legal pad.

Again Doorbal pulled out the vial of tranquilizer and the hypodermic, performed some deft mental calculations of Krisztina's body weight, drew the clear fluid into the syringe, jerked up her skirt, and stuck the needle into her thigh. He pressed down on the plunger, and after a short wail she grew quiet again.

Most criminal enterprises, faced with one dead body and another corpse on the way, would close ranks. But Doorbal and Lugo decided to call Sun Gym powerlifter and karate expert John Raimondo, a six-feet-five, 250-pound diesel. Raimondo was a sworn law-enforcement officer, a six-year employee of the Metro-Dade County Corrections Department. But that didn't give them pause. When he wasn't guarding inmates at the county jail, Raimondo liked to brag, he was out committing home invasions. Doorbal and Lugo figured he was perfect: They'd heard he also claimed to be an expert at body disposal.

Raimondo was in his black Ford pickup when the cell call came from Doorbal. He had a problem, he explained, namely two bodies in his apartment. He'd pay well be get rid of them. Raimondo turned to talk it over with his passenger, Santiago Gonzalez, another regular at the gym. The two men kicked around the offer as they drove. Doorbal patiently waited on the line. Raimondo said he'd do it for $50,000. Doorbal conferred with Lugo, then countered with an offer of his own: They didn't have 50 grand but could pay $9000 in cash plus a Presidential Rolex and a $250,000 Lamborghini Diablo.

To Gonzalez the conversation was just too surreal. Push eject on those clowns, he said. Get me out of here. Raimondo dropped him off and proceeded to Doorbal's alone. Griga was still in the tub and Krisztina lay in a heap on the living room. Raimondo leaned over the girl and, in a show of strength for the guys, picked her up with one hand by her slender ankles. He looked like a proud angler displaying his catch. But she wasn't dead yet. She began to moan Frank's name. Raimondo lowered her until her shoulders touched the rug, then he stepped on her head. Shut up, he snarled. Then he dropped her altogether.

You ll have to take care of the girl, he said as he surveyed the crime scene. Once she was dead, he'd be back to do the disposal. He looked at the men on his way out. You know, he added, you guys are amateurs.

Krisztina was writhing again. Doorbal swung the hypodermic into action once more, and she stopped moving. He and Delgado sat down to play video games on the large-screen TV that once had belonged to Marc Schiller. Krisztina lay on the floor next to the black leather couch they'd also appropriated from Schiller's home.

Now that he had the keypad numbers to Griga's front door, Lugo decided to check out the house. If he could just get to Griga's safe and financial records, and into the computer, the mission might not be a total failure. He crossed the street to the apartment he'd rented a few months earlier for his mistress, former stripper Sabina Petrescu. She was waiting anxiously for news, knowing only that something awful had happened last night with the bad Hungarian man and his girlfriend, something that had reduced her CIA agent-boyfriend to drunken tears in the dark. The government-approved plan to capture Griga had failed somehow, but Lugo had made one thing clear: She didn't want to know more. When he came back to the apartment to take her out for a drive, she didn't ask why.

Lugo pulled his Mercedes into Griga's Golden Beach driveway and walked up to the front door. Consulting his notes, he punched in the numbers on the keypad. They didn't work. Krisztina had gotten them wrong! And Chopin, that goddamn dog of theirs, wouldn't stop barking through the window. Lugo punched in more numbers, useless numbers, guesses. Nothing. The dog kept barking in the empty foyer.

Lugo returned to his car and called the townhouse. Wake her up, he ordered Doorbal. Do anything. But get the damn door code. Doorbal checked on Krisztina, then raced back to the phone. Oh, man, Danny, the bitch is cold! The words chilled Sabina as she heard them over the speaker phone.

Lugo was furious. But he had to salvage something from the miserable, misbegotten mission. He grabbed the contents of Griga's mailbox and drove back to Miami Lakes, dropped Sabina at her apartment, then crossed the street to confer with Doorbal and Delgado. The trio waited all afternoon for Raimondo to show, until it became clear they were wasting precious hours. They'd have to take care of the bodies themselves. Doorbal was getting the creeps. He'd set the thermostat as low as it could go, but they could smell Griga's corpse, and it was too late to ditch the bodies that day. They needed a coherent plan; they needed to sleep on it. Delgado offered to return the next morning, and drove home to his wife. Lugo went back to Sabina's. Doorbal fell asleep with two dead guests in the house. The place was way too cold.

On Friday morning, May 26, the plan was set. Jorge Delgado drove to a U-Haul franchise just off the Palmetto Expressway and rented a white Ford van. Lugo and Doorbal, meanwhile, went to the Home Depot in Miami Lakes. Their purchases filled two lumber carts. They bought red plastic cleaning buckets; ten-gallon containers of Ready Road repair tar; floor fans; industrial-strength towels; a 100-foot roll of Hefty bags; propane gas tanks; face goggles and gardening gloves; a black iron security grate, the kind that fits over a window; a fire extinguisher; and an eighteen-inch gas-powered chain saw. The total, which they put on Doorbal's American Express card, came to $666 with tax.

They met Delgado back at the townhouse. Frank Griga, wrapped in a shroud of linen sheets, was stuffed into Mark Schiller's stolen couch, sandwiched under the black leather cushions. They deposited Krisztina Furton in a U-Haul clothing box amid Styrofoam popcorn. Lugo and Doorbal carried the sofa outside and hoisted it into the van. Krisztina's box followed. Then everyone hopped in for the ride to Lugo's leased warehouse in Hialeah. When they pulled inside, Delgado's face lit up at the one welcome sight before him: Frank Griga's sunshine-yellow Lamborghini. It had been the one detail they'd managed to take care of the day before.

They unloaded the corpses onto Hefty bags spread out on the warehouse floor. Krisztina was stiff with rigor mortis, and Lugo used scissors to cut away her red leather miniskirt and vest. They removed Griga's clothes, except for his underwear and the ninja hood that covered the gaping wound on his crushed skull. Lugo sprayed both bodies with Windex, then scrubbed them clean with the heavy-duty towels to remove any fingerprints.

The fans were blowing, the warehouse television was on, everything was just right. But no one could put together the chain saw. They took turns going over the instruction manual, and finally assembled the tool. But when they cranked it up, it seized and stalled. They'd neglected to fill its small reservoir with motor oil! Delgado went out to buy some, as well as snacks at a Subway, but even when he returned with the oil, the chain saw still wouldn't start. Somehow they'd burned out the engine trying to start it.

This was a Gothic episode of Home Improvement. Lugo couldn't be more upset. Frustrated, he shoved the eighteen-inch chain saw back into its packing box. It was time for lunch anyway.


Back at Frank Griga's house, Eszter Toth, the maid, arrived for work that Friday morning and stopped in her tracks on the doorstep. Chopin the dog was barking ferociously. Toth had been in and out of the house hundreds of times, but she suddenly was terrified to enter alone. She walked down the street to ask Judi Bartusz, one of Krisztina's best friends, to accompany her. They punched in the keypad numbers, opened the door, and Bartusz's heart sank. The place was a disaster. Chopin had torn it apart. There was just one island of undisturbed calm: the living-room coffee table upon which rested two glasses. She remembered Frank's new business partners had been sipping drinks the night they'd stopped by to take Frank and Krisztina to dinner.

Bartusz let Chopin out into the yard. Another bad sign: Her friends never would have left the dog unattended. He was like a child to them, and they felt guilty even putting him in a kennel. Whenever they left town, they asked her to watch him.

There still was one possible explanation: Frank had said they might fly to Freeport, and if so they would have left yesterday. Bartusz called Griga's Bahamas condo, but there was no answer. She checked the garage. The Lamborghini was missing. Upstairs in the bedroom, the women found two roundtrip airline tickets. Departure from Miami International Airport at 9:00 a.m. the previous day. Beside the tickets lay two passports, their birth certificates, and U.S. re-entry forms. The couple hadn't boarded any plane, and Bartusz realized that Frank and Krisztina had never come home from their Wednesday business dinner.

She told Toth to feed the dog and go home -- and not to touch the glasses on the coffee table. Then she raced back to her own house to tell her husband Gabor the disturbing news. While he began calling their network of Hungarian friends, she drove toward Miami Lakes, heading to Shula's Steak House, where Frank had said the group was going for dinner. She didn't spot the Lamborghini, but a parking attendant down the block remembered it ("Who could forget that car, lady?") parked right on Main Street late Wednesday. Bartusz drove slowly along Main. The car wasn't there, but she did see a gold Mercedes. She'd seen a gold Mercedes in Frank's driveway Wednesday night. She wrote down the license number and headed back home.

By now Judi and Gabor Bartusz were frantic. Their friends had been missing for more than 24 hours. They finally called the Golden Beach Police Department. Within minutes Chief Stanley Kramer met the Bartuszes in Griga's driveway. Judi punched in the numbers on the front-door keypad, took him inside, and explained the circumstances of their friends' disappearance. The people who lived here were in trouble, the chief said.

Meanwhile Lugo returned to Home Depot with the chain saw and demanded a refund. Then he strode over to the lawn-and-garden department. Taking no chances this time, he bought a fully assembled Remington Power Cutter. This electric chain saw came with a one-year guarantee to "handle all your cutting chores quickly and easily."

Back at the warehouse, he and Doorbal lifted the heavy window security grate over two 55-gallon drums. This iron platform would be Doorbal's surgery table. They'd lay the bodies atop the grate; the drums would catch the blood. Doorbal suited up for the work ahead -- sweatpants, rubber boots, leather gloves, clear goggles -- and plugged in the saw. He pulled the trigger, and the Remington started right up, its chain revolving quickly, snugly around the black blade.

Lugo and Delgado chose not to stay for the grisly dismemberment. They moved to the front of the warehouse while Doorbal went to work on the bodies. For five minutes they heard the whirring drone of the saw as it sliced through flesh and bones. They heard six, maybe seven prolonged cuts, and then silence. The saw spurted again and abruptly quit.

"Come back here, Lugo!" yelled Doorbal. "Come back here and help me out!" He'd been trying to cut through Krisztina's neck when the saw teeth snagged in her long tresses. What a mess! Doorbal finally yanked the saw out of her hair, but now it was jammed and useless.

Lugo scurried to the front office to share the bad news with Delgado. But fuck it, he said, guarantee or no guarantee he wasn't going back to Home Depot. They still had a hatchet to finish the job. He changed into gym clothes, pulled on some gloves, and went back to help Doorbal. For another ten minutes Delgado sat alone and listened to heavy thumping, loud banging, the cracking of bones, and assorted charnel-house noises as his pals chopped two bodies to pieces.

When it was over, Krisztina's legs, ending in bloody stumps, jutted skyward from a 55-gallon drum. Her torso had been shoved in upside down. Griga's headless neck rose from another barrel. Both receptacles contained a mixture of road tar and a splash of muriatic acid to speed decomposition. The electric saw had whirled clumps of blood, gristle, and tissue about the warehouse floor. To complete the tableau, Krisztina's head lay in a red bucket. Griga's head was in another. A third red bucket held four hands and four feet.

Lugo and Doorbal surveyed their handiwork. Something wasn't right. Of course! The fingers, the teeth! Faces! Identification! They removed the heads from the buckets and placed them on a nearby table. Using pliers, they proceeded to extract their victims' teeth. But the roots wouldn't budge. So they brought out the hatchet again. It had a four-inch curved blade.

The bloodied heads were as slippery as rain-slicked coconuts. The men chopped down through the bridge of the nose, then hacked into the eyes, destroying the orbits at midpoint. Once through the bone of the outer eye sockets, they continued hacking down, clear through the jaw. They pulled the faces back from the skulls. This gave them good access to the gums and teeth from any direction.

Next they went after fingerprints, another way for the bodies to be identified. They carefully sliced off the fingers. For the more delicate work of filleting fingerprints from the flesh, they employed a Pakistani hunting knife with a six-inch blade.

At last it was time for a break. Doorbal relaxed on Schiller's sofa until the phone rang. He'd forgotten he had a dinner date. He'd begun seeing Cindy Eldridge again, the pretty blond Boca Raton nurse he'd met a year before. They'd dated steadily, up through the time of the Schiller kidnapping, and even while Doorbal was pursuing that gorgeous stripper Beatriz Weiland, who danced at Solid Gold. When he dumped her for Beatriz, Cindy was devastated. But Beatriz had turned around and left him a month or two back, and he'd called the nurse again. She was thrilled to be resuming the relationship, and so was he. They'd even set a wedding date: on her 32nd birthday, next month.

Delgado had to return the van and offered to give him a lift home. Lugo, at work sealing the lids on the drums, would stay behind and wrap things up at the warehouse. Delgado dropped off Doorbal, returned the van, picked up his Chevy Suburban, and headed back to the warehouse. Pulling off the street to the warehouse, he couldn't believe his eyes: There was Lugo, standing over a burning barrel. He had carried outside a metal drum, placed the iron grate on top, tossed on hands, feet, and various skull portions, splashed some gasoline around, and started a fire. Occasionally he bent down and torched the remains with a jet of propane flames. He might as well have been at a back-yard barbecue! Flames danced from the drum, highlighting his brow. The huge fans in the warehouse doorway drove the netherworld fumes into the hot Miami night.

Christ, anyone could drive down the street! Delgado yelled, and Lugo reluctantly agreed to stop the performance. He doused the flames and rolled the hot barrel on its bottom edge through the warehouse, out the back door, into the rear alley. There he resumed stewing the leavings of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton for another twenty minutes.


Back home Doorbal took a long shower then called Cindy. He was too tired for dinner, he said; he needed a nap, but he'd drive to Boca Raton late that night. Cindy tried to wait up but couldn't. Before she went to bed, though, she wrote a note and left it for him on the kitchen counter. It was just the sort of thing she figured he needed to hear tonight.

Cindy was happier than ever -- this was, after all, the fellow who'd proposed to her the first time just a few weeks after he met her -- but there were things she simply didn't understand about him. Doorbal suffered the same excessive mood swings she'd seen before. He'd been in a strange mood all week, in fact. On Tuesday he had an argument with Lugo and afterward felt so despondent, so shaken that he threatened to kill himself, and her! She knew the two bodybuilders were extremely close, that Doorbal depended on Lugo emotionally, even for basic practicalities such as where he should live. But what could have plunged her lover into a murder-suicide funk? Come on, she'd told him, lighten up, and don't talk like that again.

And sure enough by Wednesday afternoon, Lugo and Doorbal had apparently patched things up. They called her from the Mercedes, laughing and exuberant about a business meeting that night with a rich Hungarian. Doorbal told her it was a huge meeting. But then late Wednesday night he'd called to say the meeting had gone terribly, something about a fight. Cindy was barely awake at the time, but she heard him talk about his visa and being deported back to Trinidad, something about needing an alibi. She hadn't seen him in the two days since.

So she left the note in the kitchen before she turned in. Yes, she'd be ready to say he spent Wednesday with her. And when Doorbal let himself in later, he read the message and smiled. He crawled into bed beside her and thanked her. They cuddled and kissed. Tired from working with chain saws and hatchets, he fell asleep in his bride-to-be's arms.

Cindy awoke on Saturday, ready to spend the day shopping for her wedding dress. She expected Doorbal to accompany her, but to her chagrin he changed his mind. He wasn't even going to stay with her over the weekend. He had to drive back to Miami right away.

"Why, Adrian?"

"Just because," he muttered, "because I've got to do some things for Danny in Miami."

Cindy was not only irate but suspicious. All that talk about the wedding, and now he was almost indifferent. As soon as she heard his car pulling away, she ran to her own and began to follow him.

It was a busy morning on South Florida roads for the Sun Gym gang and concerned friends of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton. At 7:30 Lloyd Alvarez, a friend of Griga who'd been at the house that Wednesday as the group left for dinner, was driving along NW 138th Street, on the outskirts of Dade County. Coming toward him along that lonely road leading out to the Everglades was a canary-yellow Lamborghini. It was Griga's Lamborghini! Not only that, but it was traveling in a tight, fast-moving convoy, sandwiched between a Chevy Suburban and a gold Mercedes. Just yesterday he'd heard that his friends had disappeared. Alvarez made a quick U-turn.

He speeded up to the trio of cars and pulled to the rear of the caravan, behind the Mercedes, at a stop sign. The Mercedes tried to stall him at the intersection, giving the two lead vehicles time to speed off, but Alvarez swerved wide and gave chase to the Lamborghini. As he passed the Mercedes, he recognized Daniel Lugo; they'd spent a good half-hour talking beepers and Jet Skis in Griga's living room while Frank and Krisztina went upstairs to change for the dinner meeting. Next Alvarez caught up with the Lamborghini. Peering in he saw a huge stranger at the wheel. He didn't recognize the driver of the Chevy Suburban either, and broke off his pursuit.

Meanwhile Cindy spotted Doorbal as he took an exit ramp off the expressway. She followed him into the parking lot of the Miami Lakes Home Depot, the same store where he'd bought his dissection equipment the day before. She pulled up, jumped from her car, and confronted him. Just what was he doing here, she asked, when he'd told her some story about plans with Danny Lugo?

Doorbal decided to level with her. The meeting that had gone wrong Wednesday night, the one that ended in a disagreement? Well, the fight between Lugo and the rich Hungarian businessman -- that fight had taken place in his townhouse. There was still blood on the walls and he had to repaint them fast. He was sure, more than ever, that he was going to be deported. Cindy's heart melted. Didn't he know by now that she would help him, no matter what? While he shopped at Home Depot, she purchased cookies and cleaning rags down the street.

Jorge Delgado and Daniel Lugo already were at Doorbal's Main Street townhouse, along with some maintenance workers from the complex. The workers were studying the floor as though it were a trick essay question on a final exam. This much they understood: A feral cat had wandered in, pissed on the carpet, and gone on a rampage. The mess was so bad, Doorbal had told them, he'd had to cut up several chunks of the carpet and the padding beneath it. The workers, preoccupied with the flooring, didn't notice the fine maroon speckles on the wall. They'd be back in a week, they said.

Cindy did notice the small constellation of blood. With Delgado's help, she began the job of repainting the wall. The color, however, didn't match that of the other three walls, and she wasn't pleased. This would soon be her home, after all. Perhaps Doorbal could go to maintenance and get matching paint. She carried the brushes into the kitchen to wash them down and noticed a foul stench rising from the garbage disposal. She turned to her fiancé and complained about the rotten smell.

Lugo agreed, adding with a laugh: "It smells like dead corpses."

"He's sick," groaned the nurse.

Doorbal, whose bride-to-be had just become an accessory to a capital crime, said nothing.


On Sunday morning Griga's Lamborghini was found three miles west of the Florida Turnpike, just north of Okeechobee Road. The car was abandoned in a desolate, wooded area known to police as a weekend site for Santería rituals. The doors were left open, the windows down, and the key was still in the ignition. A state trooper at the scene found no clues in the nearby brush. Nor had the car been reported stolen. A tow truck was summoned from Opa-locka to haul the vehicle to a police impound facility.

That afternoon Lugo approached another Sun Gym member for recruitment into the gang. "Little Mario" Gray had been badgering him about a job for a couple of weeks, but he'd already turned down one opportunity to earn some quick money. All he'd been asked to do was stand still while Lugo shot him with a pneumatic tranquilizer gun. Lugo had wanted to see exactly how far the steel dart would penetrate into human flesh. It had been test-fired once already, in Doorbal's apartment, and the dart had penetrated all the way through a wall and stuck in the bedroom wall. Lugo offered Gray $500 in cash. Just to shoot him one time! But Gray had refused.

Now Lugo came back with a second offer, this one requiring actual work. It was a simple night job, transporting barrels from Lugo's warehouse. Sure, Gray said, and that night, he drove out to the warehouse. Waiting for him were three drums, welded shut. Together he, Lugo, and Doorbal lifted the barrels into a rented truck. Two of the drums were especially heavy. As Gray lifted one of them, acrid smoke snaked through a tiny opening. The three men drove to a drainage ditch in southwest Miami and heaved the barrels into the murky water. The drums settled next to a submerged refrigerator.


After getting married at the Delray Beach courthouse on Tuesday, May 30, Doorbal and Cindy returned to the Main Street townhouse to find the answering machine filled with messages from Attila Weiland, Beatriz's ex-husband. It was he who'd arranged their introduction to Frank Griga.

Doorbal called him back, full of good news: He and Cindy were now husband and wife. After the courthouse nuptials, the couple enjoyed a romantic lunch at Nick's Italian Fishery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean --

Weiland cut him off. "Adrian! Adrian! Hello? Are you crazy?" he shouted into the phone.


"The police, Adrian! My messages? They've been around ... about Frank and Krisztina!"

"The police?"

"The police are everywhere! They want to talk to you! They consider Frank dead. Frank's sister, Zsuzsanna, she's calling from Hungary and threatening me and you. If you had anything to do with this, please, please say something, Adrian!"

"How the fuck am I supposed to know where those people are?"

"I told the police everything, Adrian! So did Beatriz."

"You know, Attila," said Doorbal in a voice heavy with disappointment, "you're supposed to be my friend. You should hope you stay my friend, Attila."

That afternoon Daniel Lugo stopped by Doorbal's townhouse. Cindy stayed out of their way; they were immersed in serious discussions. All their usual playfulness had vanished. She heard Doorbal say, "You're either going to be arrested or killed!" And she heard Lugo: "If they mention my name to the police, I'm going to have them and their families killed!"

Things were suddenly going very badly. Lloyd Alvarez had seen them on the road. Beatriz was talking to the cops, and so was Attila. And just count the people who'd been at Griga's house as they headed out to dinner that Wednesday: Alvarez, the housekeeper and her child, their neighbor Judi Bartusz, whose husband was Frank's business partner.


Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton had been missing for eight days by the time private investigator Ed Du Bois got a phone call from Capt. Al Harper, the 27-year Metro-Dade Police veteran who had tried to help him with the Marc Schiller kidnapping. It was 8:00 a.m., and Harper had just overheard at roll call that suspects were under surveillance in the possible abduction of the wealthy Hungarian businessman and his girlfriend. The suspects worked at a gym, and their names had a familiar ring. Could they be the same group Du Bois had identified back in April?

Du Bois ran down the facts of the Schiller case, and Harper felt a shot of adrenaline. Du Bois had to talk to the homicide team supervisor, Sgt. Felix Jimenez, he said. They arranged to meet at Du Bois's North Miami office. The private investigator showered, dressed, and headed off to the meeting in high spirits. This was his vindication; the Schiller investigation was coming back to life. If more cops had listened to him sooner, those deranged goons wouldn't have had the chance to strike again.

Jimenez sat riveted as he listened to Du Bois's story of Schiller's kidnapping; how the Sun Gym boys had nabbed Schiller at his franchise delicatessen near the airport, held him chained to a warehouse wall for a month, tortured him until he'd signed over all his assets. How they'd tried to kill him in a fiery crash and run him down twice for good measure. How he'd miraculously survived and was trying to get his life back in order in Colombia.

Du Bois explained how he'd offered the information and documents to Metro police in April, only to be blown off. Jimenez's department had had this information for six weeks and had sat on it. And now there was another abduction to deal with, or something far worse. The sergeant made a call from Du Bois's office to his squad at homicide. Get ready. He was coming in with solid leads. At headquarters a long-distance call was placed to Colombia. Would Marc Schiller please come back and help?


The phone was ringing, and Cindy Eldridge picked it up. Attila Weiland was on the other end, demanding to speak to Doorbal. She passed the phone to her husband and vaguely heard something about "the missing couple" before turning her attention elsewhere. She did notice, however, that Doorbal had been watching an enormous amount of television. And so had Lugo whenever he came by the Miami Lakes townhouse. These two had become regular news junkies, especially if the coverage had anything to do with the missing Hungarian couple.

That Thursday evening, after the late-night television newscast, Cindy asked Doorbal again about the fight with the rich Hungarian businessman. This time Doorbal shared new information with his bride. Yes, someone had died in the fight. But he assured her he'd had nothing to do with it.

At midnight Lugo dropped by. The two men had an important errand to run, they told her. Then they headed to Solid Gold, the North Miami Beach strip club where Lugo had first seen Sabina Petrescu as she danced naked in a cage.

Beatriz Weiland, the beautiful stripper Doorbal had briefly dated and from whose photo album he'd been inspired to target Griga for his riches, was terrified as she stood in the club's private Champagne Room with Lugo and Doorbal. Not so long before, she'd extricated herself from the affair with Doorbal precisely because she thought he was shady, even criminal. Their questions tonight petrified her; it was obvious they knew she'd spoken with the police.

"What did you do with them?" she asked defiantly in spite of her fear.

Ignoring the question, Doorbal pressed: "Did you really talk about me to the police?"

She had to go, Beatriz said, and hurried backstage, where she called lead homicide Det. Sal Garafalo and left a message that Adrian and Danny were at Solid Gold asking questions. Next she called Attila. He said he'd be right there. When she emerged onstage to perform, she glanced around the room. Lugo and Doorbal were gone.

Back at the townhouse Cindy sat in bed, awaiting her husband's return and trying to think things through. She was scared. Really scared. The couple had vanished on Wednesday. Doorbal wanted an alibi for Wednesday. There had been a fight, he'd said. Someone had bled onto the walls and into the carpet. A man had died! Here! And she had painted over the bloodstains!

On Friday, June 2, Marc Schiller returned to Miami. It had been nearly two months since his last visit to police headquarters, when his complaint had been considered so ludicrous that the Strategic Investigations Division wouldn't even take it, had punted it over to robbery, and then sent word to the detectives there that Schiller was going to drop by with an "Academy Award-winning performance."

This time he told his story to Sgt. Felix Jimenez and lead investigator Sal Garafalo. This time no one suggested he was lying, and no one dared him to take a polygraph. He talked about his former partner, Jorge Delgado, to whom he had been forced to grant power of attorney. And Daniel Lugo, whose voice he'd recognized among the men who held him in the warehouse. He gave them the names of the people who'd taken over his house, took control of his bank accounts and offshore assets, stood to benefit from his life insurance: Adrian Doorbal, Daniel Lugo, and Lillian Torres, Lugo's ex-wife. He gave them the name of John Mese, the Miami Shores accountant who'd helped facilitate the transfers. At last Metro-Dade police moved forcefully into action, and officers busied themselves with drawing up search warrants.

Elsewhere in Dade County that morning one other individual came to the same conclusion about the Sun Gym gang. Cindy Eldridge was heading back home to Boca Raton to pick up more belongings for her move into Doorbal's townhouse. But as she drove along the expressway, her suspicions and fears solidified into accusations. Her husband and Danny Lugo were involved in the disappearance of the missing Hungarian couple. One of them had killed the man in a fight! She became so distraught she decided not to go to work. At her apartment she called Doorbal. She had just one question for him.

"Adrian, just tell me, what happened to the girl?"

"Cindy, what are you talking about?"

"I just want to know what happened to the girl."

"I can't talk about it on the phone."

"Why, Adrian?"

"I have to talk to you in person."

That evening she drove back to Miami Lakes and confronted him about Krisztina Furton. His reply chilled her. "What you don't know," he said, "won't hurt you."

Later that night in the townhouse, Cindy couldn't sleep. She was haunted by the bloodstains and by the violence that had transpired in her new home. Lying beside her, Doorbal slept like a baby.

The next morning at 7:00, Metro-Dade police gathered in a park next to the Miami Lakes police station. The 75 officers included homicide squads, SWAT teams, and hostage negotiators. They were ready to serve search warrants at the homes of Daniel Lugo, Jorge Delgado, and Adrian Doorbal. John Mese, the accountant who owned Sun Gym, was on the list as well. He'd witnessed Marc Schiller's coerced signatures on the transfers of his house and business properties, and the two-million-dollar life-insurance policy that would have gone to Lugo's ex-wife. Ed Du Bois had turned over incriminating documents he'd found in Mese's office, documents that linked Mese financially with the Sun Gym gang's new holdings. That morning Mese was in downtown Miami; his National Physique Committee's Florida Men's State Championship competition was scheduled to take place at the Knight Center.

The house warrants were all served at 8:30. Jorge Delgado and his wife, Linda, who had worked as Schiller's secretary when he first offered her husband a job, laughed aloud as the arrest warrant was read to them. Marc Schiller? His old partner, who'd stolen 200 grand from him in the first place? The Delgados couldn't believe the police were taking his accusations seriously. But under interrogation at police headquarters, Delgado began to talk. Yes, he'd hired Lugo to collect the money Schiller owed him, "but Lugo got carried away." When his lawyer showed up, Delgado declined to speak further.

Cindy awoke that Saturday prepared to end her honeymoon. She had no idea that within minutes it would come screeching to a halt anyway. She was still in her nightgown and sipping coffee when the knock came, and she opened the door to a throng of officers. They moved quickly inside, read her the warrant, then waited at the foot of the stairs as she called for her husband. Adrian Doorbal walked to the landing, his magnificent physique on display. He went to police headquarters voluntarily. Just some questions, he assured his bride.

As he was being driven downtown, officers searched the townhouse for evidence. The items they collected -- furniture, jewelry, electronics, computer equipment and software, bric-a-brac, even subscription magazines -- had come from the Schiller house. One find seemed particularly odd, given his own recent nuptials: Doorbal had kept a photo album of Marc and Diana Schiller on their honeymoon.

At his interrogation Doorbal admitted his participation in the Schiller abduction, then stopped talking. His last comment to detectives: "I'll never see daylight again."

Over at the Knight Center, the contestants already were flexing their oiled muscles onstage. John Mese quietly left the auditorium under police escort and also was taken in for questioning.

No one was home at Sabina's place across the street from Doorbal's. Metro-Dade officers discovered that Lugo already had fled to the Bahamas with Sabina and his parents. But Sabina had left Diana Schiller's BMW in the apartment's assigned parking space. Five days later a multiagency task force flew to the Bahamas. They found Lugo at the Hotel Montague in Nassau and brought him back in handcuffs to Miami on a commercial flight. As the plane rolled to a stop at MIA, Lugo gazed out the window and saw the row of squad cars, police lights flashing, arrayed on the tarmac.

"Is that all for me?" he asked.

"I told you, Lugo," said the detective who sat beside him, "you're in a little bit of trouble in Miami."

Adrian Doorbal sat in his jail cell along with 50 other high-risk inmates and watched Daniel Lugo on television news as he was led, handcuffed, through Metro-Dade police headquarters. The reporter announced that Lugo was prepared to take police to the bodies of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton. "You motherfucker!" he growled to Lugo's image on the screen. "You're the one who started this shit!" If Lugo had kept his mouth shut, he maintained, they could have pulled off the perfect crime.

As the lurid tale played out in the local media, Ed Du Bois became a mere spectator to the grisly findings. He felt some relief that Lugo, Delgado, and Doorbal were in custody, but the institutional cynicism that thwarted a true investigation into Schiller's kidnapping filled him with ire. Why did Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton have to pay such a terrible price? Why hadn't the police taken him seriously? "How does it feel," he scornfully quizzed one investigator, "to have blood on your hands?"


During the evening of June 10, Lugo's second night in jail, his attorney contacted Sergeant Jimenez at the homicide bureau. Lugo was prepared to reveal the hiding place of the bodies if the police would mention his helpfulness to a jury during any potential criminal proceedings. An agreement was drawn up and signed by Lugo, his lawyers, the police, and the State Attorney's Office. It was after midnight when the prisoner took the detectives to southwest Miami and the drainage ditch, where they found three submerged 55-gallon barrels.

The next morning at the Dade County Medical Examiner's Office, the metal drums were opened and the torsos extracted from the tar-and-acid mixture. But the hands, feet, and heads of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton were missing. Detectives were not amused by Lugo's semantics. In their negotiations he had never mentioned the significant facts about the amputations, which denied police positive identification of the victims, short of DNA testing. The prisoner declined to cooperate further.

During the autopsy of the female torso, however, medical examiners discovered breast implants. They recorded manufacturer's information from them and were able to trace the implants to the doctor who'd performed Krisztina's breast-augmentation surgery. (It would be the first time in Dade County that primary identification of a murder victim was developed through breast implants.) It took another month, though, for information to surface about the missing body parts. On July 7 an anonymous male caller said the victims' hands, feet, and heads had been put into buckets, sprinkled with acid, and placed alongside Alligator Alley between the Sawgrass Expressway and the Seminole Indian Reservation. The caller also claimed to know who had transported them there: Adrian Doorbal and a Dade County corrections officer.


During the summer and fall of 1995, police made more arrests. Carl Weekes and Stevenson Pierre, who'd participated in the Schiller abduction, were hauled in. Sun Gym owner John Mese, who'd been released after his initial interrogation, now found himself in police custody. So did Lugo's mistress, Sabina Petrescu. Cindy Eldridge faced charges, too.

The cops went after minor players as well: "Little Mario" Gray, who'd helped dump the barrels in the channel. A Sun Gym member who'd altered the VIN number on Diana Schiller's BMW. A former trainer at the gym who'd been paid to be an "intimidator" during the Schiller kidnapping. These individuals quickly cooperated with prosecutors and received relatively light sentences. Gray hadn't known what was in the barrels, after all, and was an unwitting accessory after the fact. He received a year's probation. Illegal alteration of the VIN number merited the same. The "intimidator" pleaded guilty to armed kidnapping and received a two-year sentence. For her cooperation Sabina, who no longer had any illusions about her lover's CIA employment, faced just one charge: theft of a motor vehicle. Moving up the food chain, prosecutors also struck deals with Weekes and Pierre, who told all they knew about the Schiller affair and were let off with ten-year sentences.

On March 27, 1996, a Dade County grand jury returned a 46-count indictment against the leaders of the Sun Gym gang for conspiracy to commit the murders of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, and the kidnapping, extortion, and attempted murder of Schiller. "It was all planned, organized, deadly, and mean," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle after the indictment became public. The indictment also included RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges. The Schiller kidnapping-attempted murder and the double murder were deemed part of a continuing criminal enterprise: "The defendants did the same thing to Schiller as they did to the couple -- except he lived," explained Rundle. "We will use [RICO] to show a pattern of violence conducted by the defendants, who collectively had become a criminal enterprise that targeted unsuspecting wealthy victims."

That day corrections officer and disposal "expert" John Raimondo was placed under arrest. Police suspected it was he who'd taken Griga's Lamborghini out to its final resting place in the Everglades. He later pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Jorge Delgado was the first of the major defendants to crack. He gave a confession to Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine and, in turn, received just fifteen years for the Schiller crimes, and a concurrent five-year sentence for his role in the Griga-Furton case. It was a sweetheart deal for the state's star witness. Prosecutors were unable to link him to the plot and violence against Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, only to accessory activities after the fact. But he could testify about what had happened to the couple in Doorbal's townhouse and at the warehouse.

Cindy Eldridge, whose honeymoon had come to such an abrupt end, was the last defendant to enter the prosecutorial fold. She'd been charged as an accessory after the fact for her removal of the bloodstains from her husband's townhouse wall. By November 1997, Doorbal had become romantically involved with a secretary who worked in his lawyer's office, even though he was incarcerated. Cindy filed for divorce. The four-day marriage to Doorbal had never been consummated, she said. Worse, she now realized it had been a complete farce, with the sole purpose of inhibiting her from being able to testify against him. She pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, and agreed to reveal all she'd seen and heard.

By now the state had whittled the case down to four defendants: Lugo, Doorbal, Mese, and Raimondo. Because the jail guard wasn't involved in the RICO sequence of crimes, he was severed from the main case.

Jury selection for the trial of Lugo, Doorbal, and Mese began in late January 1998. Two juries eventually were picked, one to listen to the case against Lugo, the second to hear the evidence against Doorbal and Mese. Both trials would take place simultaneously and in the same courtroom before the two juries. It was a complicated situation, Judge Alex Ferrer explained. Lugo and Doorbal had made separate statements at the time of their arrests that implicated both men. But their admissibility was an issue; Lugo's jury might have to leave the room at certain points. Likewise with Doorbal's.

The trial began on February 24, 1998, and for nearly ten weeks the prosecution laid out its case. It was the longest, most expensive criminal trial in Dade County history, and featured more than 1200 pieces of physical evidence and 98 witnesses, including Marc Schiller, who'd been flown up numerous times to help in preparations. His courtroom testimony was crucial. When the prosecution rested, Lugo's and Doorbal's attorneys chose not to present a defense. John Mese's public defender called just one witness. None of the defendants took the stand.

On May 4 of that year, Lugo's jury convicted him of the two murders, as well as sixteen other charges, including racketeering, kidnapping, attempted extortion, theft, attempted murder, armed robbery, burglary, money laundering, and forgery. Doorbal also was found guilty of the two murders, plus thirteen additional charges. On June 1 Doorbal's jury deliberated just fourteen minutes before recommending death. A week later Lugo's panel voted for the death penalty, too. It took them all of eighteen minutes to decide.

John Mese was convicted on 39 felony counts, including two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, racketeering, and multiple counts of money laundering, fraudulent notary, and forgery. On the eve of the trial, the prosecution had offered him a plea bargain: nine years in state prison (he'd already served two and a half years in the county jail since his arrest). Mese rejected the deal and on July 21, Judge Ferrer, who overturned the racketeering and murder convictions citing insufficient evidence, sentenced the accountant to 56 years.

When the juries' death-penalty votes came in, prosecutor Gail Levine invited Schiller back to Miami for the final round of arguments before Judge Ferrer, whose duty it would be to make a final determination on the recommendations. Schiller's own attorney advised him that the trip was unnecessary; he'd flown to Miami nearly a dozen times already since June 1995. He'd met with police and prosecutors, provided depositions, sat in on hearings, and offered his testimony at trial. The death sentence was as good as delivered. But Schiller looked at his roundtrip ticket and saw the final step in his long journey of betrayal, humiliation, pain, and survival. He was going to put Lugo and Doorbal on death row.

The death-penalty hearing took place July 8. First on Judge Ferrer's docket was a petition by Adrian Doorbal to marry the secretary he'd been seeing throughout his incarceration. Denied. Doorbal still had $700,000 of Schiller's money in a Smith Barney account, and the judge didn't want any marital claims to impede the transfer of funds.

And at long last it was Schiller's time to stand before his kidnappers, who sat shackled and handcuffed. He spoke eloquently and in agonizing detail of the weeks he'd spent in captivity, handcuffed and blindfolded. He spoke of his family's suffering, and the scars he still held. The kidnapping and torture had ruined him in every way imaginable. He could no longer visit clients. He could no longer trust a soul in this world. His wife, a frail woman to begin with, was now in failing health, a mere 84 pounds. How could human beings commit such heinous crimes? He would never understand, but he knew one thing: Neither man -- not Jorge Delgado either -- deserved to live in society again.

Schiller finished his statement and said quiet farewells to his attorney and the prosecutors with whom he'd worked for the past three years. With one quick glance back at the defendants, he walked out of the courtroom. A victim, a survivor, he had done his duty.

Outside again in the sultry air, Schiller paused on the courthouse steps. In that brief instant he heard the voices. Men were shouting. Commanding him to stop! Puzzled he turned just as they closed in around him. The old panic surged. And for the second time in his life, Schiller was grabbed and taken away.

The news broke over Miami later that day: Marc Schiller was a wanted man. He'd been a target all along, ever since the arrest of the Sun Gym gang, but the feds had patiently waited until he'd done his business in the courthouse, two birds with one stone, as the saying went.

FBI agents arrested Schiller on charges of orchestrating a fraudulent Medicare billing scheme that generated somewhere around $14 million. He now faced up to 25 years in prison, ten years more than his nemesis Delgado had received for kidnapping and murder.

Yet Schiller's thoughts were not with Delgado in the blurred hours that followed. He was thinking about Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine, and all he could think was that she had sold him out. For three years she had used him, forced him to relive every excruciating detail of his confinement: the starvation, the burns and electric shocks, the beatings, the abject terror, the absolute physical and psychological mortification. She had extracted everything she could, and then she had disposed of him. From his perspective her tactics were not so different or any less brutal than those the Sun Gym gang had employed against him. His attorney had been right. He shouldn't have returned to Miami. The death sentences came in, just as predicted. Schiller got the news while he sat in jail.

In fact the State Attorney's Office had been aware of the federal investigation for at least three years. Fourteen months before the trial began, in October 1996, prosecutor Gail Levine had written a memo to her supervisor addressing the fact that federal prosecutors were targeting Schiller, almost to the exclusion of any other potential Medicare fraud defendants. The feds, she wrote, "just seem like they will plead everyone out -- but Schiller. That's the only person they care about....


On July 17, 1998, more than three years after the murders were committed, Judge Ferrer sentenced Lugo and Doorbal. They each received two death sentences for the murders of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, and consecutive sentences for all the other crimes for which they had been convicted.

That wasn't the end of Judge Ferrer's involvement, however. In February 1999, after Marc Schiller pleaded guilty to one federal count of false Medicare billing, the judge took the highly unusual step of providing favorable testimony at his sentencing hearing.

Such testimony from a sitting judge is extremely rare. For Ferrer it was unprecedented, but he was moved to do so out of compassion and, to a degree, admiration. Not only had Schiller demonstrated extraordinary courage and endurance in surviving the Sun Gym gang's torture and attempts to kill him, but he later proved to be indispensable in prosecuting the case against his captors. "I know we can consider anything at sentencing," Ferrer said at the hearing. "This case was a very emotional case to sit through. It still bothers me to some extent. And I know that if things were just black and white, they could have computers do our jobs. But there's something intangible about this case that makes me feel like what he went through should be given some credit, because I don't think it could have been worse if he was a prisoner of war."

Ferrer also spoke of Schiller's haunting testimony. "Schiller was obviously emotionally bothered by it," he said. "It's hard to imagine that anybody would not be emotionally distraught about what happened to him. He tried to keep a very cool composure, but ... I think even just relaying it in court was traumatic to the people that were hearing it."

On Wednesday, March 17, 1999, Marc Schiller was sentenced to 46 months in prison, the most lenient sentence available under federal guidelines.

The Sun Gym case is now closed.

Information for this story was drawn from interviews with principal characters, investigative reports, court documents, and trial testimony. This is the last part of a three-part series.



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