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.

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.

Adrian Doorbal (left): Lugo's best buddy really wanted a Lamborghini, and he knew just where to find one
Adrian Doorbal (left): Lugo's best buddy really wanted a Lamborghini, and he knew just where to find one
Following his miraculous survival, Marc Schiller had just enough strength remaining to call for help
Following his miraculous survival, Marc Schiller had just enough strength remaining to call for help

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.

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