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.

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.

Griga and Furton's water toys
Griga and Furton's water toys

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

Mese,

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 ...

Schiller

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.

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