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
"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!"