Pain & Gain: A Pictorial Dummy's Guide to the Real-Life Tale
So there is this movie coming out later this month, right? It's directed by Michael Bay and stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Anthony Mackie as a trio of bodybuilding extortionists who stumble and bumble their way to another man's riches by torturing him and then running over him with a car to finish him off. The hella rich dude is played by Monk star Tony Shalhoub.
It's called Pain & Gain, it was shot in the Magic City, and it's all based on a series of Miami New Times cover stories published between December 1999 and January 2000. Bay read the 30,000-word, three-part yarn, also titled "Pain & Gain," and fell in love with it. Written by Miami crime reporter Pete Collins, it told the gruesome tale of the Sun Gym Gang, a crew of bodybuilding, money-hungry sociopaths who viciously tortured and almost killed their first victim and then brutally murdered a Hungarian couple and dismembered their bodies.
This week's Miami New Times cover story finds out what happened to the Sun Gym Gang and individuals who were part of the case against the crew's members. We also combed through our archival photos from the original story to put together this dummy's guide to the real-life story of mayhem.
- Pain & Gain: Where the Real-Life Sun Gym Gang Characters Are Now
- Pain & Gain: From New Times Story to Michael Bay Film
Meet Daniel Lugo, the Sun Gym Gang's mastermind (portrayed in the movie by Mark Wahlberg). In 1994, the New York City native was working as a personal trainer at the Sun Gym in Miami Lakes. There, he recruited accomplices in a diabolical scheme to steal every asset owned by Marc Schiller, an Argentine-born businessman who employed one of Lugo's buddies. After multiple failed attempts to kidnap their mark, Lugo and his crew finally succeeded in abducting Schiller in November 1994. They took him to a warehouse where they beat, pistol whipped, burned, and Tasered Schiller into signing over all his belongings from his $300,000 house on Old Cutler Road to his $1.4 million offshore bank account. Lugo is currently on death row for the murders of the Sun Gym Gang's second and third victims, Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton.
Adrian Noel Doorbal was Lugo's sycophantic right-hand man. A musclebound native of Trinidad, he worked with Lugo at Sun Gym. Like Lugo, Doorbal -- whose played in the movie by Anthony Mackie -- had a thing for exotic cars and exotic dancers. But he took a lot of steroids and had trouble keeping it up in bed. When it came to doing the Sun Gym's dirtiest deeds, Doorball stepped up to the plate. He relished singing the skin off Schiller's arms with a butane lighter during the month the Sun Gym gang held the Argentine captive. He's the one who convinced Lugo to go after Griga, a Hungarian living in Golden Beach who made a fortune operating phone sex lines. Doorbal killed Griga by bashing in his skull, choking him. and pumping him full of horse tranquilizer. He also finished off Griga's girlfriend. When it came time to dispose off the bodies, Doorbal accepted the grisly assignment of chopping off the couples' heads, hands, and feet with a chainsaw and a hatchet.
The morning of December 15, 1994, the Sun Gym Gang decided it was time for Schiller to die. For three days, they had pumped him full of pills and booze. They put him behind the wheel of his Toyota 4Runner and aimed it at a street pole. The plan was to make it look like a drunk-as-hell Schiller killed himself in a car accident. But right before the crash, Schiller jumped out of the car and fell to the ground. Lugo, Doorbal, and Sun Gym Gang member Carl Weekes doused Schiller and his ride with gasoline. Lugo lit the victim and his car with a butane lighter. However, Schiller got away again. The trio ran him over twice with their car. Miraculously, Schiller survived.
After the Sun Gym Gang was done siphoning off everything Schiller owned, they targeted their next victim: Frank Griga. A Hungarian immigrant who went from selling exotic cars to owning them thanks to his lucrative phone sex line business, Griga had everything the Sun Gym wanted: a $700,000 waterfront mansion in Golden Beach, a yacht called Foreplay, and expensive cars like his $200,000 royal-blue Vector. Lugo and Doorbal tricked Griga into believing they were looking for investors for a phone-related business. On May 27, 1995, after several aborted attempts to snatch Griga, Lugo and Doorbal lured him and his girlfriend Furton to Shula's Steak House under the pretense of a business deal. The restaurant was closed, so the goons brought the couple back to Doorbal's apartment, where Griga and Krisztina spent their final moments in agonizing terror.
Lugo, Doorbal, and Sun Gym Gang member Jorge Delgado transported the two bodies to a Hialeah warehouse. They bought a gas-powered chainsaw from Home Depot to cut off body parts but forgot to fill it with motor oil, so it broke the first time they cranked the power tool on. Lugo returned the chainsaw to Home Depot, demanding a refund. He left the home-improvement store with an electric Remington Power Cutter, which came with a one-year guarantee to "handle all your cutting chores quickly and easily." He went back to the warehouse and handed the chainsaw to Doorbal, who took charge of the grisly dismemberment. When the power tool's teeth got caught in Furton's hair, Doorbal had Lugo chop off her head with a hatchet. The two murderers then used a curved blade and pliers to remove the faces and teeth off the heads.
Within a week of killing and quartering Griga and Furton, Lugo, Doorbal, and other accomplices were in police custody. The two bodybuilding buddies were charged with the couple's murder, as well as a laundry list of charges ranging from kidnapping to extortion to forgery. Their trial became the longest, most expensive case tried by the State Attorney's Office. More than 22 search warrants were issued. One hundred-plus witnesses were called to the stand. And 10,000 pieces of evidence were presented. The jury was sworn in on February 20, 1998, and didn't begin deliberations until four months later. Lugo and Doorbal were found guilty and sentenced to death. They've spent the past 14 years exhausting all of their appeals while awaiting the lethal needle in a North Florida state prison. The only thing going for them is that the characters played by Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie are portrayed as antiheroes.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.
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