John Raimondo is a bit player in the 1999 epic three-part Miami New Times series "Pain & Gain," which blockbuster Hollywood director Michael Bay turned into a passion project that hit theaters over two weeks ago. Starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the film recounts the absurd dark tale of the Sun Gym Gang, a group of sadistic bodybuilders who kidnapped and tortured wealthy victims to steal their assets during a crime spree between 1994 and 1995. Two of the victims, Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, ended up dead, their bodies hacked to pieces and dumped in the Everglades. In the story, Raimondo is identified as an accomplice who initially agreed to help Sun Gym Gang members Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal dispose of Griga and Furton.
Following the film's debut, Raimondo contacted New Times to tell his side, becoming the first person implicated in the Sun Gym caper to talk about the gang's grisly crimes.
A former Miami-Dade Corrections officer who served less than half of his eight-year prison sentence, Raimondo claims his role and other aspects of the case have been exaggerated. "In no way am I justifying these horrible events," Raimondo says. "What happened was terrible. However, the movie, the books and articles are very inaccurate."
In the third part of "Pain and Gain" by former New Times staffer Pete Collins, Lugo and Doorbal called Raimondo, who despite being a law-enforcement officer bragged about doing home invasions with another weightlifter named Santiago Gonzalez. Lugo and Doorbal offered to pay Raimondo and Gonzalez to help them get rid of Griga's and Furton's bodies. The payment included $9,000 in cash, a Presidential Rolex and a $250,000 Lamborghini Diablo belonging to Griga. After dropping off Santiago, Raimondo allegedly went by Doorbal's apartment where the murders had taken place.
Here's what Collins wrote:
Griga was still in the tub and Krisztina lay in a heap on the living room. Raimondo leaned over the girl and, in a show of strength for the guys, picked her up with one hand by her slender ankles. He looked like a proud angler displaying his catch. But she wasn't dead yet. She began to moan Frank's name. Raimondo lowered her until her shoulders touched the rug, then he stepped on her head. Shut up, he snarled. Then he dropped her altogether.
You ll have to take care of the girl, he said as he surveyed the crime scene. Once she was dead, he'd be back to do the disposal. He looked at the men on his way out. You know, he added, you guys are amateurs.
Raimondo flatly denies that version of events, claiming it is all based on the testimony of Jorge Delgado, another Sun Gym Gang member who received a lenient prison sentence for cooperating with prosecutors. "Delgado made that all up to help his own case," Raimondo asserts. "The homicide detectives never believed me and stuck with Delgado's story."
Raimondo admits he entered the apartment when Griga was already dead and Furton was still alive. However, he denies touching her. "All that stuff about me picking her up by the leg never happened," he says. Raimondo adds that Doorbal called him about needing help in double crossing Lugo. "Adrian came to me that he was tired of Danny's bullshit," Raimondo says. "He wanted me to set up a fake rip-off once they had gotten Griga's money. He was mad at Danny because he never paid Adrian the right amount from their deals."
He was arrested on March 25, 1996 on charges of racketeering conspiracy, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of first degree murder, two counts of extortion, and two counts of kidnapping. However, Raimondo did not testify against the other defendants. All but one of the charges were dropped or prosecutors declined to file charges. He was convicted on one kidnapping count on February 23, 1999. Raimondo was sentenced to 8 years, yet he was released in 2002.
A Hialeah native, Raimondo started working out at Sun Gym in 1986 when he was 18. "Sun Gym was crime central," he says. "It was a who's who of every thug, crime lord, and dirty cop in northern Miami-Dade County. Whatever you wanted, you could get it at Sun Gym. You name it: Drugs, guns, stolen cars, fake credit cards, counterfiet money."
Raimondo moved to New Jersey a couple of years ago. He had been leading a normal life until last year, when Bay started filming. Since then, people recognize his face from the mugshot that appeared in the New Times story. Friends have asked him if he plans to see the flick. His answer is always no. "I wish I hadn't been involved," he says. "It put my whole family through hell. I can only imagine what the victims' families are going through. I'm very sorry for those people. They don't deserve to relive what happened."
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.