Longform

Pain & Gain: Where the Real-Life Sun Gym Gang Characters Are Now

Page 4 of 7

When Schiller staggered out of the flaming car alive, the gang ran him over — twice! — with a Camry. Still, he lived.

Four years later, on May 27, 1998, Schiller returned to Miami to testify against his tormentors. His schadenfreude was short-lived, though. As he left the courthouse, Schiller was arrested by federal agents on charges of orchestrating a Medicare billing scheme through his nutritional companies.

Current status: Employed as an accountant in Boca Raton. Schiller also self-published his memoir, called Pain & Gain: The Untold Story.

Adding insult to the injury of being busted by the feds, Delgado was among the witnesses who testified against Schiller. On March 17, 1999, Schiller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and got nailed with 46 months in prison and a $14.6 million bill. (Two years after Schiller's conviction, U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold set aside Schiller's restitution and ordered him to pay back only $128,597.87 from the proceeds of a life insurance policy he had.)

Schiller, who got out of prison in 2001, maintains he was innocent, noting the main witness against him was Delgado, the same man who wanted him dead. "I was never tried or convicted by a jury," he says. "I just threw in the towel. I had no fight in me."

After being released, Schiller couldn't land a job because he'd lost his CPA license. So he worked part-time for his brother for a while and then spent a year on a vending machine route. By 2002, Schiller regained his CPA license. "I work 11 hours a day making 20 bucks an hour," he says.

In the meantime, Schiller finished his memoir. He found out about the Pain & Gain film only last year, when one of his bosses brought it to his attention.

Originally the character played by Shalhoub was going to be named after him and he was supposed to have a cameo role as a detective, Schiller claims. But both fell through. "They kept me at a distance," he says.

From the trailer he's watched, Schiller says, Shalhoub's brash character is all wrong. "There is no resemblance to me at all," he says. "I was always a humble, family person."

As interest in the Sun Gym Gang case has gained traction, major news outlets have knocked on Schiller's door seeking to retell his story. He's been interviewed by ABC's 20/20 and CBS's 48 Hours, though he wasn't happy with either news report, which he feels portrayed him as a lowlife scoundrel who deserved his torture.

"To me, the story was about my survival," he says. "I don't understand why they want to make me look like a bad guy."


Name: Szuszanna Griga

Played by: Not depicted in the movie. Her brother, Frank, is part of Shalhoub's composite character

Key description: "Griga began to collect luxury automobiles, among them a $200,000 royal blue Vector, a rare, handmade, experimental sports car; a Dodge Stealth for running errands; and the Lamborghini Diablo... His girlfriends were beautiful, as sensual and sculpted as the cars he owned. He preferred babes, some of them strippers, and after he and Beatriz had parted ways, she introduced him to Krisztina Furton at Crazy Horse II, a Fort Lauderdale strip joint. The two quickly fell in love and became inseparable."

Real-life role: Griga's sister

Born in Berlin in 1961, Frank Griga emigrated to New York City in the mid-'80s, toiling as a car washer, then as a foreign-car mechanic. After moving to Miami in 1988, he landed a gig selling luxury rides at North Miami Beach's Prestige Imports. He yearned to own the Lotuses and Ferraris. Soon, he found his calling card, literally. He joined a group of investors in the 800- and 900-number markets and made a fortune on sex lines. In 1994 alone, Frank and his partners took in 3 million bucks.

"My brother left Communist Hungary when he was 21," Szuszanna said in a recent phone interview. "He built his business from the ground up. He was the personification of the American dream."

He bought himself a $700,000 waterfront mansion in Golden Beach and a yacht called Foreplay. And he began collecting his own exotic toys, like his $200,000 royal-blue Vector. Those expensive tastes led to his downfall, though. Doorbal's girlfriend, who knew Griga through her strip-club job, showed the hood a photo of the businessman with his Lambo. That's how the gang found its final mark.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.