Press & Media

The true story behind Pain & Gain

For one whole month a brutal criminal gang held and tortured businessman Marc Schiller. Eventually he signed over millions of dollars to them. His story is now the subject of a movie, but the ordeal was much worse in real life.

Jon Axworthy
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 August 2013 13.21 EDT

Pain & Gain stars Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shalhoub and Mark Wahlberg. Photograph: REX/Moviestore
At no point during the production of Pain & Gain, the new black comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, did Marc Schiller get a call from its makers. This surprised the Buenos Aires-born businessman as he was the victim in the true-life story of kidnapping, torture, extortion and, ultimately, redemption upon which the film is based.

to talk to me they got the personalities of all the main characters wrong,” says Schiller from his office in Boca Raton, Florida. “I knew all these guys.”

Instead, the film has been loosely based on a series of articles that ran in The Miami New Times in 1999, which detailed the crimes of The Sun Gym Gang, a group of recidivist body builders who connected through a love of hard workouts and easy money. The gang conspired to kidnap Schiller, a former business partner of one of the men, force him to sign over his life and then kill him.

Daniel Lugo, played by Wahlberg, was the conniving leader and according to Schiller a “lethal manipulator”, while in the film he is nothing more than a vehicle for Wahlberg’s now trademark brand of comedic tough guy.

“In reality Lugo was a very difficult person to like. He almost had a neon sign on his forehead that said: ‘Don’t Trust Me.’ He was a conman and that is all he knew,” says Schiller. “After my kidnapping, in the warehouse, he would go into wild mood swings, one minute a nice guy and the next a raving lunatic. You never knew which Lugo you were dealing with.”

Noel “Adrian” Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie, was his meek best friend and partner in crime, literally the Robin to Lugo’s Batman – codenames that the two assumed during Schiller’s captivity and torture. “The real Doorbal was a loud sadist that did not like being pushed around by Lugo,” says Schiller. “He liked hurting people and volunteered to kill me twice.”

Dwayne Johnson’s character is an amalgamation of three other men involved in the crime, including Jorge Delgado, Schiller’s former business partner who masterminded the kidnap and extortion scheme.

In the film, they come across like the three stooges practising a bizarre act of steroidal slapstick that spills over into violence. In reality, they became the worst combination of manipulation, muscle and murderous intent.

It was Delgado who owned the warehouse where Schiller was taken after his abduction, and where he was subjected to a catalogue of physical and mental abuse that Quentin Tarantino would have been proud to pen.

“I’ve ended up calling it Hotel Hell,” says Schiller. “They tasered me, they punched me, they pistol-whipped and burned me with a lighter. They played Russian roulette against my temple and performed mock executions. I was blindfolded throughout. In fact, they kept adding duct tape so that in the end I must have had up to two rolls around my eyes and face.

“From week two on, I also had a bag over my head and balls of wax in my ears. It was only taken off twice: once to put a sanitary towel under the tape because my face was bleeding so badly, and in the end when they changed to bubble wrap and tape in preparation for my murder.”

The men had no intention of killing him at this stage, not before they had forced Schiller to blindly sign document after document, one of which was granting Jorge Delgado the power of attorney over all his business affairs and bank accounts. The men also presented him with a series of spoken “scripts” that he would be coerced to repeat over the phone to his family and business partners until there was nothing left of his life. The gang held a gun to his head while they listened in on an extension.

“They told me that unless I cooperated they would bring my wife to the warehouse and rape her in front of me. They also said they would kidnap my son, who was six, and daughter, who was two, and chain them next to me. So I made them an offer. They could have anything they wanted if they let my wife and children leave the country. I felt with them gone, the kidnappers would lose their leverage on me. I had only one way to survive and that was to try to buy my life by giving them what they wanted. That did not work out too well, as we now know.”

“I was then forced to call my attorney and realtor to tell them I’d fallen in love with a young Cuban named Lillian Torres and wanted to cash out,” Schiller remembers. Torres was Lugo’s ex-wife who was named as the sole beneficiary of Schiller’s $2m life insurance policy. “I think she was just another pawn Lugo used in his grand scheme,” adds Schiller.

The gang had hoped that the transactions would be concluded in a matter of days but Schiller had accounts all over the world and it took much longer to withdraw the money and deposit it into his Miami bank account.

More than four weeks later, Schiller was still chained to the warehouse wall. He was also being routinely abused. Finally, he was told to validate one final piece of unseen paper with his signature. This transferred more than $1.26m of his money into offshore accounts set up by his captors.

Schiller has since seen much of the documentation that he was forced to sign blindfolded and under duress. “It is unimaginable that it didn’t raise any suspicions,” he says. “The signature that was supposed to confirm a change of beneficiary in my life insurance policy I wrote, on purpose, vertical to the dotted line.”

However, with this final signature Marc Schiller had now become obsolete to the Sun Gym Gang who proceeded to force-feed him alcohol and sleeping pills over a number of days before stuffing him unconscious behind the wheel of his car. Lugo gunned the accelerator pedal towards a concrete post before jumping out at the last minute.

Schiller survived the impact. While comatose, he was doused with petrol and a fire was set in the car. The vehicle also contained a portable propane tank, placed there to finish the job. Miraculously, Schiller gained consciousness before the car exploded. He escaped, only to be run over by a waiting Lugo and Doorbal. Determined to leave no loose ends, they then reversed their car back over his seemingly lifeless body.

The intention of the staged crash was so that the corpse would be discovered quickly and the gang could claim the $2m in life insurance, however they didn’t count on Schiller surviving the horrific ordeal. Strangely, what worked in the gang’s favour was the outlandish nature of the kidnap and torture plot and the astonishing ineptitude with which its final act was carried out.

“The tale I presented to the Miami police seemed so fantastical to them that it was dismissed out of hand as an ‘Academy-award-winning performance and story’,” says Schiller. However, a highly experienced private detective called Ed Du Bois with connections in the Miami police force took it seriously. Even so, the police department only started to believe Schiller’s story when the gang struck again, using with the exact same MO and blundered into another bloodbath – this time killing both their victims, Florida millionaire Frank Giga and his girlfriend Krisztina Furton.

One of the most striking disconnects between film and reality is that the actor Tony Shalhoub is not cast as Schiller. Instead, he plays a character named Viktor Kershaw.

“Viktor Kershaw is a criminal prick who deserves bad things to happen to him,” spits Wahlberg’s character in one scene. In Pain & Gain, Kershaw is an obnoxious bore who brags about his ill-gotten wealth to the impoverished gang members.

“It’s 180 degrees from who I am or have ever been,” says Schiller. “I was Mr Responsible, Mr Predictable. Clearly, they want the audience to root for these guys in some way, so they don’t lose them early on. To not see them as the animals and sociopaths that they really were.”

As if the story couldn’t get any stranger, immediately after Schiller’s extraordinary testimony against his captors – which presiding judge Alex Ferrer deemed “traumatic” just to listen to – Schiller was arrested and accused of false Medicare billing. He pleaded guilty and received the minimum sentence. Judge Ferrer was a character witness at his sentencing.

However, despite the inherent drama of the tale, verdicts on the film have been mixed since its April release in the US. It is the director Michael Bay’s eagerness to stress the “truth” of the story makes Schiller uncomfortable.

“The only thing that really rings true for me is the title. My pain really did result in a lot of people’s gain. Especially Hollywood’s.”

Pain & Gain: real-life nightmare stranger than fiction

Paul Kendall
Published: August 26, 2013 – 3:06PM

On the afternoon of November 15, 1994, Adrian Doorbal, a weightlifter with a penchant for extreme violence and a serious steroid addiction, sat in the front seat of a rented van, waiting to abduct the millionaire owner of a Miami deli.

On paper it wasn’t a difficult job. Not only did Doorbal and his two accomplices outnumber their target – Marc Schiller – three-to-one, they were also armed with a gun and a shock-inducing Taser, which was capable of paralysing a person from a distance of six metres.

Despite these advantages, Doorbal was worried. This was, after all, the gang’s eighth attempt, the seventh having taken place just the day before, and one could be forgiven for wondering whether something was going seriously wrong in the planning stages of the operation. Two weeks previously, for example, their plan had been to dress up as ninjas on Halloween and grab Schiller when he opened his door to what appeared to be a group of trick-or-treaters. Somehow this idea fell by the wayside and they ended up going to a strip club instead.

Then, a few days later, before dawn, they had donned camouflage paint and hidden in Schiller’s yard under some tarpaulin, ready to pounce when he came out to get his newspaper. But, again, the mission had to be cancelled when it suddenly dawned on them they would be exposed by the headlights of oncoming cars. So, today there could be no mistakes.

At first, everything seemed to go well. Just after 4pm, Schiller emerged from his deli and started walking towards his car. As he inserted his key in the lock, the gang grabbed him from behind and dragged him into the van, employing the Taser with gusto. But if they thought this breakthrough proved they had suddenly become criminal masterminds, they were very much mistaken.

Today, Marc Schiller lives in a small one-bedroom apartment in Boca Raton, Florida. In contrast to 1994, when he had a house with a pool, his own accountancy firm, a deli and $US1.26 million ($1.4 million) in the bank, he is now an employee of a modest-sized company which pays him $us20 an hour. He rarely socialises outside of work, is divorced from his wife, sees his children only occasionally and has, by his own admission, “zero” interest in making friends.

He’s not a man given to self-pity, but anyone who hears what happened to him after he was kidnapped by Doorbal and his accomplices can’t fail to feel sorry for him. And now, to compound his problems, a film has been made that depicts him in a far from favourable light.

Pain & Gain, which stars Mark Wahlberg, is a high-tempo black comedy that pokes fun at the bodybuilder gang, but goes out of its way to stigmatise Schiller as well in order, one assumes, to generate some sympathy for its leading man. Schiller’s name has been changed, but it would take about two minutes on Google to identify him, since the case was well covered by Miami newspapers at the time and in a three-part serial by the journalist Pete Collins in 1999.

“No one [involved with the film] ever talked to me,” he says now. “It wasn’t me they put in the movie. When I saw it I thought, ‘who is this person?”‘ On screen, Victor Kershaw (aka Schiller) brags about his money, treats his employees with contempt and drives around with the words “Miami B—-” emblazoned on his number plate. In reality, says Alex Ferrer, the judge who presided over the case, Schiller wasn’t like that at all.

“In the movie they made him out to look slimier than he was,” says Ferrer. “He really wasn’t a slimy guy.” And besides, he adds, “nobody deserves what he got. Nobody”. The man ultimately responsible for what happened to Schiller was a former car salesman called Jorge Delgado. In 1991 he had come to work for Schiller as a sales representative at his accountancy firm, and, over the next 18 months, the quietly spoken Cuban had become a trusted friend, looking after Schiller’s house when he and his family went on holiday and working with him on other ventures.

But things started to sour in late 1992 when Delgado joined a bodybuilders’ hang-out called Sun Gym. There he met Daniel Lugo (played by Wahlberg in the film), a 6ft 2in muscle-bound personal trainer, the gym’s manager and a convicted fraudster. When Lugo heard about Delgado’s work with Schiller, he initially wanted to go into business with them both, but Schiller was not interested.

“The first time I met him, I could tell there was something,” says Schiller. “He was unsavoury. He couldn’t look you in the eye. You could tell he was hiding something.” In October 1994, Lugo arranged a meeting with Doorbal, his workout partner, Stevenson Pierre, Sun Gym’s back-office manager, and a friend of Pierre’s called Carl Weekes.

“Are you,” he asked Pierre and Weekes, “interested in making $us100,000 for two days’ work?” He’d recently discovered that “a scumbag” named Marc Schiller had stolen money from a gym member called Jorge Delgado. He wanted to kidnap Schiller, force him to return the money and, while they were at it, take his house, his cars, his savings and anything else they could get their hands on.

One month later they were in the back of a Ford Astrovan racing towards a warehouse in North Miami with a bruised and bewildered Schiller at their feet. Once there, a blindfolded Schiller was punched, pistol whipped and Tasered again. The gang played Russian roulette against his temple. One of them, Schiller believes it was Doorbal, took a lighter to his arm and burnt his flesh until it sizzled.

After that he was forced to phone his wife and tell her he had gone on a last-minute business trip. She should fly to Colombia with their children for a family event and he would follow in a couple of days. To Schiller’s relief, she agreed – at least his family was now out of harm’s way – but it now meant his captors had access to his empty house. They started quizzing him about his assets.

“OK,” said one of them. “You have a house that’s paid for, your wife’s family money that you invest, your wife’s jewellery, an apartment in Miami Beach, jet skis…” It was obvious immediately that his former friend Delgado was behind the operation; nobody else knew all these details. Schiller also clocked who he was talking to. “This is the Daniel Lugo Show,” he thought.

Over the next few days Schiller – still blindfolded – took a series of calls patched through to the warehouse from his home phone. Each time, a gun was placed against his head and he pretended nothing was amiss. He was also called upon to sign dozens of documents. He couldn’t see them, but it was obvious what was happening: the gang were transferring everything he had into their name. After a month in captivity – which Schiller spent chained up and blindfolded without a change of clothes and only intermittent food – the gang were satisfied that they’d got as much as they could and revealed the end game. First, Schiller had to phone his lawyer with an outlandish story: he’d been having an affair with a Cuban beauty, his wife had found out and now he was depressed and suicidal.

Then he was told to get drunk. At gunpoint, he downed vodka, tequila and chocolate liqueur, some of it mixed with sleeping pills. At 2.30am on December 15, they put him in his car and drove him to an industrial park. Lugo placed a comatose Schiller in the driver’s seat, stepped on the accelerator and steered the vehicle towards a concrete pole. Just before the crash, Lugo jumped out, but when the men ran up to inspect the wreckage, they found to their chagrin Schiller was still alive.

So they moved on to Plan B: Lugo sprayed the car with petrol and set it alight. Unfortunately for the gang, Lugo had forgotten to strap Schiller in. As they pulled away in their car, they saw their man – revived by the heat – stumble out and weave his way towards the road. Weekes, behind the wheel, hit him and then, for good measure, turned the car around and ran him over. Schiller remembers none of this. The next thing he knew he was in hospital, the searing pain in his body proving he was still alive. In a book he has written about his ordeal, he lists his injuries: a twisted spine, a shattered pelvis, a ruptured bladder and a damaged spleen. But Schiller’s first concern was for his immediate survival: he organised for an air ambulance to take him to a hospital in Staten Island. And it was lucky he did, because that very morning the Sun Gym gang, dressed in hospital uniforms, were on their way to kill him.

Over the next four months, Schiller recuperated and tried to put his finances back in order. His house now belonged to a corporation in the Bahamas, his deli franchise had been dissolved, his offshore accounts were empty and $us160,000 had been spent on his credit cards to buy, among other things, thousands of condoms and adult films. He learnt later that Lugo had been living in his house, calling himself “Tom” and telling neighbours he was a member of the US security forces and the house had been confiscated by the government. The neighbours liked him. He changed light bulbs for them and helped with odd jobs.

Why didn’t Schiller go to the police all this time? He maintains he thought they wouldn’t believe him and he wanted to gather his own evidence. He also decided it would be best to try to negotiate the return of his money instead of going to court when he had no money for lawyers.

He hired a private investigator named Ed Du Bois, who went to meet Lugo and came across all the evidence he needed. “They put me and Ed Seibert [a former homicide detective] in a small office,” remembers Du Bois, now 70. “And after a while we noticed the trash can underneath the desk was overflowing with paper. We started looking through it and almost everything pertained to Schiller’s kidnapping.”

The gang had obviously been cleaning up their files, but instead of shredding their papers, had put them in the bin. “There were copies of cheques written to all the bad guys for their part in the crime,” says Du Bois. “So we had more than Lugo and Delgado – we had the whole gang.” With this haul and Lugo showing no signs of handing back any money, Schiller and Du Bois finally went to the police in April 1995. Unsurprisingly, they wondered why Schiller had waited so long to contact them. And while they stalled, the gang moved on to their next victims – a millionaire called Frank Griga and his girlfriend, Krisztina Furton.

This would-be kidnapping was a far more brutal and brief affair, although no less farcical. Instead of tying Griga up and forcing him to sign over his assets, Doorbal got into a fight with the Hungarian and ended up killing him. When Furton started screaming, she was sedated with Rompun – a horse tranquilliser – but the dose was far too high and she died as well. The hapless weightlifters then cut up the bodies with a chainsaw. As soon as the couple were reported missing, Lugo and his accomplices fell under suspicion and, when one of the detectives who had worked on the Schiller case heard a gang of weightlifters were in the frame, he immediately phoned Du Bois. Within a matter of hours, all but Lugo had been arrested. The ringleader, who had fled to the Bahamas, was picked up five days later.

Today, Lugo and Doorbal are both on death row. Delgado served seven years. And Schiller is working 11 hours a day for less money than he earned in his first job out of college and doing what he can to forget his ordeal. When the case came to trial, in 1998, the prosecution was able to present the jury with 10,000 pieces of evidence concerning both the murders and Schiller’s kidnapping, and testimony from more than 100 witnesses, including one statement that revealed Lugo went back to the DIY store, Home Depot, to return the chainsaw he had bought to dismember Griga and Furton because it was suffering from a burnt-out engine.

“There were literally times during the case when the lawyers would [approach the bench] to talk about an issue and we would just shake our heads and laugh because of the stupidity,” says Ferrer, the judge. “The case was incredibly tragic, but it had a lot of dark humour in it.”

The Telegraph, London

For Marc Schiller, “Pain and Gain” All Too Real
The victim of the the Sun Gym Gang says he won’t be seeing the new Michael Bay film

By Justin Finch | Saturday, Apr 27, 2013 |

Set almost 20 years ago in a Miami that’s now a memory, the film “Pain and Gain” is based on a hard-to-believe story. For Marc Schiller, the story is all too real.

“I was sure I was going to die. It was just a matter of how,” Schiller recalled.

Schiller is the lone living victim of the misfit crew of muscle men that became known in the ’90s as the Sun Gym Gang. The name is taken from the Miami Lakes area gym they used as home base. The gang first tried to kill Schiller, before torturing him, and bilking him out of millions.

“Some days, it doesn’t seem like it was real, but life moves on. I’ve left it behind,” Schiller said.

The gang made its mark inflicting pain for their own personal and financial gain. Their greed led them to Golden Beach couple Kriztina Furton and Frank Griga, whom they later killed, according to authorities. The Sun Gym Gang’s story played out in court, and was documented by the Miami New Times, where it caught director Michael Bay’s eye and inspired the film.

“People say, ‘what the hell did we just see?’ You know? It’s not your normal movie,” Bay told NBC 6.

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Not at all, insisted Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. She wants viewers to understand the over-the-top tale is rooted in reality.

“There were real people who suffered. There were real people that were tortured and ultimately murdered. There are real people that are sitting in state prison who are presently on Death Row,” she said.

Among them, Daniel Lugo, the alleged ringleader, played by Mark Wahlberg, and Adrian Noel Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie. Dwayne Johnson’s Paul Doyle character is based on several Sun Gym Gang members. Detective Ed DuBois, who helped cracked the case, says justice was served.

“The bottom line is, there’s the old saying, crime doesn’t pay, you know? And these guys learned their lesson,” DuBois said.

Though the film stands to take in millions in ticket sales, Schiller won’t be among them.

“From what I understand, the character that plays me is nothing like I am. So, there’s no reason for me to see this. I lived it,” Schiller explained.

Marc Schiller’s Pain & Gain: Dark comedy?
April 26, 2013

Twitter is a great place to meet authors. They tweet their books, you check them out and sometimes you find one you like. Sometimes, they just floor you! Through one of those tweets and follows, I met Marc Schiller, author of Pain & Gain-The Untold True Story.
Schiller’s book and story piqued my interest even more when I learned that Michael Bay “Transformers” was director for the movie “Pain & Gain” based on the true story of Marc Schiller, a Florida businessman. Schiller was kidnapped and held captive for a month by murderers who now sit on death row. Michael Bay produced a dark comedy based on this story. Dark comedy? Kidnapping? Those words did not seem to fit together in the same sentence.

Pain & Gain-The Untold True Story was an easy read, except for the torture, trauma, games of Russian roulette and unbelievable actions of Schiller’s captors. The book, written with the intent of documenting the events he survived and helping others who may have experienced horrific events to find hope and inspiration, accomplishes what it set out to do. It provides insight into the thoughts and fears someone experiences when placed in a traumatic, unthinkable situation and eventually brings you to Schiller’s conclusion that anger will not help the healing for him.

Since Schiller was bound and blindfolded throughout his captivity, he gave names to some of the characters, like “Mr. Torture”. He calls the warehouse in which he was held, “Hotel Hell”. Perhaps a coping mechanism, perhaps an attempt at making a tragedy something identifiable, Schiller takes you through his month-long experience where he turns over his million plus assets and cash to his captors only to find himself facing death not once, but many times.

I do not see the comedy, dark or otherwise, in this book. I have not seen the movie “Pain & Gain” so I cannot judge Bay’s work or how he felt he could create a work of art and comedy from this tragedy. In an interview with Schiller on The Book Hound Show, he expressed his dismay at the actions of the producers. They did not consult him as part of the movie though they offered him a cameo appearance, which he eventually declined and states, “I’m glad I didn’t do it because the movie really … it’s got nothing to do with reality. The person who plays me, is not ME!”

A review copy of Pain & Gain-The Untold True Story by Marc Schiller was provided for this review.

Pain & Gain-The Untold True Story

‘Pain & Gain’ Author Speaks Out On Movie’s Depiction Of His Real-Life Torture

The Huffington Post | By Matthew Jacobs
Posted: 04/12/2013 5:22 pm EDT | Updated: 04/12/2013 6:57 pm EDT

The author of “Pain and Gain: The Untold True Story” spoke out Friday on HuffPost Live, calling the new movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg an “atrocious” depiction of the true events he endured.

Marc Schiller, whose book was released in January, said he does not approve of the Michael Bay movie’s portrayal of the criminals who kidnapped him for a month and subjected him to intense torture. The “Pain & Gain” film presents the criminals, known collectively as the “Sun Gym Gang,” in a somewhat lighter, more comedic tone than Schiller finds appropriate based on his harrowing experience.

Schiller was kidnapped after con artist Daniel Lugo, portrayed in the film by Wahlberg, convinced one of Schiller’s colleagues that he had stolen money from him — something Schiller says “was the furthest thing from the truth.” In the movie, Lugo and partner Paul Doyle (Johnson) kidnap a wealthy businessman (Tony Shalhoub) and extort his money through various torture tactics.

“Obviously at the end they tried to kill me — and it wasn’t that funny when they tried to kill me,” Schiller said on HuffPost Live, referring to the comedic tone with which the film is being billed. “They did run me over with a car twice after trying to blow me up in the car. I was in a coma and somehow I got out. … It wasn’t that funny because I had substantial injuries. … The way they tell it made it look like a comedy. You also gotta remember that not only I went through this, but certain people were killed, so making these guys look like nice guys is atrocious.”

Survivors Angry Over ‘Pain & Gain’ Depiction.

By SUZETTE LABOY Associated Press
MIAMI April 4, 2013 (AP)
The real-life murder, torture and kidnapping case from South Florida that’s behind the coming movie “Pain & Gain” indeed reads like a script — just not a funny one.

The fact that the film, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is an action-comedy has angered survivors of the Sun Gym gang’s crimes and those who investigated them nearly two decades ago.

“You are talking about real people. And in this particular case, especially when you’re talking about the murder victims, these were innocent victims,” said retired Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Felix Jimenez.

Zsuzsanna Griga told The Miami Herald that the movie’s depiction of the gang as sympathetic bumblers just trying to get ahead is “ridiculous.” Gang members murdered and dismembered her brother and his girlfriend.

“It’s horrible what happened to them,” said Griga, who lives in Hungary. She could not be reached by The Associated Press. “I don’t want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers,” she said.

The Paramount film, which opens April 26 and is directed by Michael Bay of “Transformers” and “Armageddon” fame, is adapted from a series of Miami New Times articles about a group of 1990s bodybuilders who hatched a brutal get-rich-quick kidnapping scheme that eventually escalated to murder. Paramount declined comment.

The New Times series told of mastermind Daniel Lugo, played by Wahlberg, his sadistic muscleman Noel Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie, and Jorge Delgado, who is not portrayed in the movie, who were denizens of the Sun Gym, which was known for its hardcore bodybuilders. Johnson plays Paul Doyle, a fictional member of the crew.

Lugo, a charming conman who had served prison time for defrauding seniors, was the gym’s manager. He hired Doorbal, a gym rat and steroids abuser, as a part-time employee and cut him in on a lucrative Medicare fraud scheme. Delgado, one of Lugo’s clients at the gym, had once worked for Marc Schiller, a wealthy Miami businessman whom they targeted for kidnapping.

They attempted to abduct Schiller about half-dozen times, once disguised as ninjas (which the movie pokes fun at). They finally succeed, snatching Schiller in 1994 outside his deli. They kept him at Delgado’s warehouse for a month and tortured him with lighters, a Taser, sleep deprivation and water boarding until he had his wife and children move to Colombia and he signed over his home, a life insurance policy and millions of dollars in investments. Schiller, who later pled guilty to Medicare fraud, said he had earned the stolen money honestly through an accounting practice and other investments and businesses.

The gang moved into his house and then tried to kill him. They forced him to get drunk, put him in a car and set it on fire. They then crashed it into a utility pole. When he staggered out, they ran him over with another car — twice. Somehow, he survived.

Schiller, then 34, woke up in the hospital and told staff what had happened. He said they just went about their duties, so he contacted his attorney and hired a private investigator, Ed Du Bois. Numerous news reports over the years have said Schiller hired the investigator to get his money back; however, Schiller said he wanted the investigator to gather evidence that could be used to prosecute his kidnappers because “no was listening” to him.

Four months later, he sent Du Bois to the Miami-Dade police with the reams of evidence he had collected. Nothing happened.

Du Bois, who makes a cameo as a detective in the movie, gave the film company and director credit for making an adaption of the true story.

“If you read the original article, the basic elements are in the movie but there is a lot of Hollywood in that movie,” he said.

In the movie, Schiller is renamed “Victor Kershaw.” Played by Tony Shalhoub, who starred in TV’s “Monk,” Kershaw is described by Wahlberg’s character as a criminal who deserves to have bad things happen to him. Surrounded by women in skimpy bikinis, he’s seen in a pool while smoking a cigar.

That image, Schiller said, couldn’t be further from the truth.

“It’s not who I am,” said Schiller, who now works in an accounting office. He says he was married and a homebody at the time of the kidnapping and never smoked cigars. “It’s supposed to represent me but it doesn’t.”

The movie also gives some details about at least one killing that happened after Schiller’s escape, although it is unclear how that is done. Paramount rejected an AP request to view the film in advance.

In reality, the gang targeted Frank Griga, a Hungarian immigrant who had gotten rich running a phone sex operation — Doorbal’s girlfriend knew him from the strip club where she worked. Under the pretense of proposing a business deal, the gang invited Griga and his girlfriend, Krisztina Furton, to dinner with the intent to kidnap them.

But Griga fought back and was beaten to death. Furton was killed with an overdose of horse tranquilizer. Their bodies were taken to the same warehouse where Schiller had been held and dismembered. The bodies were dumped and the parts were put into drums and buckets and then discarded around South Florida. (One movie trailer shows a small dog carrying a severed toe in its mouth around a posh home).

When Griga and Furton were reported missing, the investigation quickly focused on the Sun Gym gang. Delgado became a prosecution witness against Lugo and Doorbal, who were convicted of murder in 1998 and sentenced to death. They are awaiting execution. Delgado got 15 years. Others were also convicted for their roles.

Jimenez, the detective, was often assigned to show actors — including Kevin Bacon — what it was like to ride in a squad car. As they cruised, he would tell them about the Sun Gym case.

“Their response was: ‘I know it’s true. But you can’t even make a movie out of it because nobody will believe that it was true.'”

Marc Schiller talks ‘Pain and Gain – The Untold True Story’
Examiner  FEBRUARY 5, 2013    BY: 

Pain and Gain, a Michael Bay film starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Tony Shaloub, and Ed Harris will be released on April 26, 2013 as a thrilling dark comedy but the true story goes much deeper and is far from funny. Tony Shaloub’s character is Victor Krenshaw, the fictional portrayal of the real-life Marc Schiller.

Schiller was held hostage for a month and tortured beyond belief by the Sun Gym Gang. He shares his experience with harrowing detail in his book, ‘Pain and Gain – The Untold True Story,’ a memorable story of an innocent man’s suffering at the hands of greedy and heartless criminals that will stick with readers long after the book is closed.

Marc Schiller’s ‘Pain and Gain – The Untold True Story’
Photo credit: Courtesy of Marc Schiller
Michael Bay has said that “ Pain and Gain is a mixture of FARGO and PULP FICTION. It’s a dark comedy, and it’s all true,” while Judge Alex Ferrer of the actual case has said, “This case was very emotional to sit through. It still bothers me to some extent. I don’t think it could have been worse if he had been a prisoner of war.” While it may be because Schiller had no voice or connection to the film (something I learned during the interview), it seems as though the movie has only attempted to scratch the surface of his plight. With ‘Pain and Gain – The Untold Story,’ Marc is allowing readers to see and feel what he really experienced at what he calls ‘Hotel Hell,’ while showing how he persevered throughout it all.

Marc Schiller was kind enough to share his thoughts and feelings about the book and the film with me. Here is what he had to say:

Q: Your book contains details that have never been shared about your experience. What made you decide to open up about it?

Marc Schiller: For a couple of reasons, one is that the movie is coming out and as all Hollywood productions; it contains a lot of make-up to make it attractive for audiences. So, I thought it was important for people to really know what it was like to be me in that warehouse without all that Hollywood glitz. I also believe that as dark as that experience was, a message of hope shines through. I believe that is an important message in the troubled times we now live in.

Q: You’ve said, “There are some things you can only explain on paper, things that are too hard to say out loud.” As you shared these things on paper, did you find it just as difficult to revisit and express such powerful details?

MS: A lot of time has passed and it is not as difficult as it used to be, but certainly reliving the entire ordeal was difficult at times. I had pushed many of those ghosts away and I had to revisit them. This meant re-experiencing many of those feelings I felt those days I was chained in that warehouse. But, I knew that what I experienced needed to be told.

Q: So, how does it feel knowing that some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry are taking part in sharing your story?

MS: I wish I could have spoken and shared with them what it was really like. From what I understand, the movie will not do justice to what I experienced during my captivity but that’s Hollywood. I think having such a high profile cast will inspire more people to read my book and find out what really happened.

Q: What message do you hope for readers to take away from both your book and the film?

MS: As far as the film, I do not know. It has been made into a dark comedy so we will have to wait and see what message it conveys. I think my book carries an important message. It can serve to inspire people, no matter how bad a situation they find themselves in, to believe and have faith that a solution exists and it will appear. Miracles happen. I would like people to be inspired to analyze their lives and be appreciative for all the blessings they have, even the smallest things, and to live their lives full of joy and love for themselves and others.

Q: Very well said. At this point, I’m assuming that you’ve had nothing at all to do with the making of this movie. Am I correct?

MS: Correct. No one associated with the movie has ever contacted me.

Q: Wow.. So, could you share how you found out about it and your emotions regarding the news?

MS: One of my co-workers told me about it. I was first enthused and thought that they would contact me about it. Now, I’m a little disappointed that they did not want my input and that the movie was made into a dark comedy.

‘Pain and Gain – The Untold True Story’ is now available for purchase and is a compelling story for readers and film lovers that want to know the truth, raw and unedited.

Link to Article



Told as a gripping memoir, Marc Schiller chronicles his month-long captivity that many will soon witness on the big screen in Paramount’s ‘Pain and Gain’ movie. Telling his untold true story for the first time, readers are urged to buckle up for a journey of adrenaline, a struggle to survive and a shocking ending.


Miami, FL – 1994 was a memorable year for Florida’s Marc Schiller, but for all of the wrong reasons. Caught in a ruthless campaign of kidnapping, extortion and murder, Schiller’s month-long captivity at the hands of the Sun Gym Gang is nothing short of unbelievable. As Paramount Films prepares to release a movie about the ordeal, Schiller is releasing his untold story in a compelling new book.

‘Pain and Gain: The Untold True Story’ is Schiller’s own recount of an experience he’s never before shared in such explicit detail.


This is the untold true story of one citizen’s pointless torture and month-long captivity. The story, formerly mistold if not utterly overlooked, has been made into a feature film. Even as a dark comedy, there is little amusement to be found in human suffering.

The sick and twisted minds of Mr. Schiller’s captors would be fodder for the Darwin Awards if the results were not so alarmingly inhumane. Physical, mental and emotional torture, as well as sensory deprivation and starvation, the prisoner of war-like conditions differed only in the fact that Mr. Schiller was completely alone during his extended stay at the warehouse he refers to as Hotel Hell. An early victim of identity theft in the years following Hurricane Andrew in Miami, Mr. Schiller chronicles his story in tortuous detail. His humiliation, pain and suffering at the hands of these perverted social misfits is a shocking revelation. What is it like to be imprisoned in near dungeon-like conditions? All this mayhem on American soil toward the end of the last millennium.

Greed, lust for power and the desire to inflict pain and misery were the apparent motivating forces behind this gruesome incident. Truly a harrowing tale and one that you won’t soon forget.

As the author explains, his book contains many details that he hasn’t shared until now.

“I’m opening up about many of the details for the first time. The book narrates my struggle to survive and overcome adversity, inhuman conditions and torture as well as the lessons I learned along the way,” says Schiller.

Continuing, “The upcoming Paramount Movie does a great job of adding Hollywood drama to what was a life-changing experience. However, I wanted to have my say, without the glitz and glitter of the movie world’s influence.”

The alarming details of Schiller’s story have already garnered much attention from the media. While he has spoken publically on networks including CBS and ABC, the literary format has allowed him to take readers deeper into what he experienced and how it affected his life.

“There are some things you can only explain on paper, things that are too hard to say out loud. My book is a collection of these previously-unheard admissions. It’s raw, frank and takes readers on the ride of their lives,” Schiller adds.

With the upcoming movie expected to put the book in high demand, interested readers are urged to purchase their copy as soon as possible.

‘Pain and Gain: The Untold True Story’, published by Star of Hope Inc., is available now.

For more information, visit the book’s official website: