By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
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.