History of the World According to the Movies: Part 91- Crime and Law Enforcement in 1990s America

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Anthony Mackie, Mark Wahlberg, and Dwayne Johnson star in Michael Bay’s too soon 2013 crime film Pain & Gain. This movie was based on a series of articles by Pete Collins which pertains to a group of violent and criminal bodybuilders as well as outright screw ups. Still, if there was an historic incident Michael Bay could do justice to, it’s this one. Yet, this film was met with outrage by their victims and their families nevertheless. Still, the real life Sun Gym gang wasn’t nearly as likeable as the guys in the movie and their crimes were much worse. Still, it probably would’ve been better if Michael Bay had made this movie perhaps 100 years after the events took place.

Despite the 1990s being a period of stability in the United States, there were plenty of stories on crime. After all, this is the decade when you have the O. J. Simpson’s Bronco chase and the media circus surrounding in his trial over the death of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Of course, I was in preschool at the time but I sort of remember it being covered on the news and yes, I think he did it. Still, you have other stories of wrong doing as well. In Washington D. C., you have Stephen Glass who was a rising star in The New Republic until it was discovered that he was a pathological liar who may have made up stuff in his 27 out of 41 stories for the magazine which led to the rise in online journalism. In New York, you have Jordan Belfort, the so-called “Wolf of Wall Street” (which was also the nickname of Mr. Peabody), whose brokerage firm Sutton Oakmont was known as a den of sin as well as ran a “pump and dump” operation which would land him in prison for money laundering and securities fraud. He’d also share a prison cell with Tommy Chong. In the South you have con artist Steven Russell whose zany schemes and prison escapes seem too incredible to be true at times.Then there’s Miami, which is home of the Sun Gym gang who were a group of hostile bodybuilders known for kidnapping, extortion, and murder. There are a few movies about some of these exploits which contain their share of inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

Steven Russell:

Steven Jay Russell escaped from prison wearing hot pants and fishnets. (Contrary to I Love You, Philip Morris, he did this wearing a women’s track bottoms and a tie-dyed T-shirt, since trying to escape prison wearing fishnet stockings and hot pants would be a very bad idea for a man {but certainly much more hilarious}. Also, he pulled this off in 1993, when he was still with his previous boyfriend, not Philip Morris as in the film.)

Steven Jay Russell escaped from prison by coloring his white prison uniform with green marker to resemble scrubs. (Yes, he did this but unlike in I Love You, Phillip Morris, there was a prison guard who wasn’t entirely convinced who said, “Damn, doc, those look like prison whites you’re wearing.” He cheerily replied, “Well, don’t shoot.” The guard didn’t.)

Jordan Belfort:

Jordan Belfort met Danny Porush in a restaurant. (Contrary to The Wolf of Wall Street, they met through Porush’s then wife {and first cousin} who met Jordan on the bus. She said Belfort always gave up his seat for her and found out he lived in the same building with them. She introduced her husband to Belfort thinking that he might help Danny with his struggling ambulette business. After their first conversation, Porush decided to take his Series 7 exam and get a stockbroker license.)

Jordan Belfort was arrested for crashing his Lamborghini while high on expired Quaaludes. (Yes, but the real Belfort says it was a Mercedes. He said he was so high in a drug haze that he couldn’t remember causing several different accidents on his way home, yet he did send one woman to the hospital via a head on collision. Interestingly, Belfort would later become a cell mate to Tommy Chong who encouraged him to write his memoirs.)

Jordan Belfort’s brokerage firm taped cash to a woman’s body. (While it’s seen in The Wolf of Wall Street, Danny Porush says it didn’t happen while Belfort says it did.)

Jordan Belfort hosted a dwarf tossing competition at Stratton Oakmont. (Though he considered hiring a dwarves for tossing, he didn’t actually do so. As Danny Porush said, “We never abused [or threw] the midgets in the office; we were friendly to them. There was no physical abuse.” Yet, it’s in The Wolf of Wall Street.)

Jordan Belfort was called “the Wolf of Wall Street.” (Contrary to The Wolf of Wall Street, the nickname came from an article about him. Also, he only briefly worked as a legitimate stock broker on Wall Street before the 1987 Black Monday crash that left him out of a job.)

Jordan Belfort had a chimpanzee at his Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm. (Contrary to The Wolf of Wall Street, he didn’t. According to Danny Porush, “There were no animals in the office…I would also never abuse an animal in any way.” Yet, he did admit to eating a goldfish.)

Jordan Belfort gave his employees at Stratton Oakmont riling motivational speeches. (Yes, but they were more often filled with self-adulation than Leonardo DiCaprio’s in The Wolf of Wall Street. Strangely the real Belfort is now working as a motivational speaker and corporate consultant. Yet, DiCaprio would say, “Jordan stands as a shining example of the trans formative qualities of ambition and hard work, and in that regard, he is a true motivator.” Yet, I’m not sure he’d be good in the role model department after the cheating, drugs, hazing, and his “pump and dump” schemes which led to being criminally charged, serving prison time, and having his company banned from brokerage activities.)

Stephen Glass:

The Stephen Glass story “Hack Heaven” showed how the ill-equipped The New Republic was to handling someone like him (who has systematically undermined the magazine’s editorial process) when it was exposed as a hoax in the Forbes Digital online magazine. (What’s not mentioned in Shattered Glass is that this episode was one of the key moments that established online media as a serious competitor to the traditional print rather than just a novelty. And this happened in 1998.)

Stephen Glass’ was a respected journalist for The New Republic until his “Hack Heaven” article. (Yes, but what Shattered Glass doesn’t point out is that while he enjoyed the loyalty of the staff, his reporting repeatedly drew outraged rebuttals from his article subjects that eroded his credibility and led to private skepticism in The New Republic. When scandal broke, the editor in chief Martin Peretz admitted that his wife didn’t find Glass’ stories credible and stopped reading them. During Glass’ time at the magazine, out of the 41 stories he published 27 of them were found to be either wholly or partly fabricated. He also wrote for other magazines such as The Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review, JFK Jr.’s George, Rolling Stone, and Harper’s. Not only that but he contributed to PRI’s This American Life hosted by Ira Glass {no relation}.)

The Sun Gym Gang:

The Sun Gym gang consisted of 3 main members. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, it was larger with Sun Gym owner John Mese, stripper Sabina Petrescu, and nurse Cindy Eldridge as accomplices.)

Daniel Lugo was single during the kidnapping of Marc Schiller. (He was married twice and both wives played tangential roles in his schemes. His second wife has divorced him since and won sole custody of their two daughters in 1998.)

The need to fund hormone injections motivated Adrian Doorbal’s crimes. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, he didn’t need to commit further crimes to fund them, thanks to Lugo giving him profits from the Medicare scam. He just participated in the Sun Gym gang’s criminal activities all for the violence.)

Daniel Lugo was a vicious bodybuilding moron. (Contrary to Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal in Pain & Gain, he was a smart man according to the guy who brought him down. He had other criminal activities as well such as a fraud conviction and running a lucrative Medicare scam where he bought information about the recipients and billed the government for bogus medical services. Also, he didn’t attend any self-help seminars, wore vanilla scented cologne, or cite Michael Corleone or Rocky as role models.)

The Sun Gym gang disguised as ninjas in order to kidnap Marc Schiller. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, they discussed dressing up as ninjas on Halloween night to abduct Marc Schiller. Rather they talked about dressing up as ninjas as part of their costume as trick or treaters in which they’d nab him when Schiller would give them candy. The Sun Gym gang was a group of bodybuilders in Florida so you can see why this plan was never executed. Yet, it did take about 6 tries for them to kidnap Schiller {Tony Shaloub’s character in the movie}. Still, they did dress in black, paint their faces with military makeup, and wore gloves in one of their kidnapping attempts.)

Daniel Lugo befriended Marc Schiller at the Sun Gym. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Schiller distrusted Lugo and never went to the gym. It was actually Jorge Delgado who befriended Lugo and targeted Schiller since he worked for the man as did his wife. Not only that, but it was at Delgado’s {not Schiller’s} warehouse where the kidnappers tortured Schiller for a full month before trying to kill him. As the Miami New Times reported, “Throughout his ordeal with the gang, Schiller had been tased, burned, beaten, pistol-whipped, and forced to endure games of Russian roulette. When the gang was done with him, they made him wash down sleeping pills with liquor, put him behind the wheel of his Toyota 4Runner, and rammed it into a utility pole to make it look like a drunk driving accident. Seeing that he was still alive, they then doused the vehicle with fuel and set it on fire with him in it, but Schiller jumped out of the flaming car. Staggering, the gang ran him over twice with a Camry {not a van} and left him for dead. Miraculously, he lived after eventually coming out of a coma and woke up in the hospital.” Details of Schiller’s torture {which was much more of a living hell in real life} and escape were modified for the film. Oh, and even when Schiller was in the hospital, he organized to be transported to one in Staten Island since he was afraid the Sun Gym gang would try to kill him again. He was right.)

Daniel Lugo killed Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Adrian Doorbal did with Lugo as an accomplice at Doorbal’s Miami Lakes apartment no less. Doorbal cracked the side of Griga’s head with a blunt object, strangled him with a headlock, and injected him with horse tranquilizer. Lugo covered Furton’s mouth and tackled her yet contrary to the film, she was unarmed. Once bound, Doorbal injected her 3 times not 2, which was too much.)

Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal put Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton’s body parts in barrels and dumped them in a lake. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Lugo, Doorbal, and “Little Mario” Gray put Griga and Furton’s bodies in drums and dumped them in a drainage ditch in southwest Miami. Too bad for them, Furton had breast implants with serial numbers on them which the Miami police used to identify her remains.)

A member of the Sun Gym gang became acquainted with a demeaning Frank Griga while running into him at a strip club. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Griga was discovered by Adrian Doorbal who spotted a picture of a Lamborghini Diablo in a photo album belonging to one of his stripper girlfriends Beatriz Weiland. He asked who owned it and it turned out that Griga was one of Weiland’s former generous boyfriends. It was she who introduced Griga to the Sun Gym gang.)

A chainsaw the Sun Gym gang planned use for cutting bodies failed to start due to it being clogged by hair. (It was actually due to them forgetting to put motor oil in it and burnt the engine while trying to start it which they returned to the Home Depot which they exchanged for an electric one with a one year guarantee to “handle all your cutting chores quickly and easily” {kind of reminds me of an episode of Dexter here}. Then that’s the time when Furton’s hair got clogged up in the chainsaw, which led to Adrian Doorbal and Daniel Lugo to chop off her head with a hatchet and used a curved blade and pliers to remove the faces and teeth on the heads.)

Jorge Delgado barbecued hands and feet of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton outside the warehouse. (Contrary to the Dwayne Johnson expy in Pain & Gain, it was Daniel Lugo who did this and it was on a steel drum with an iron grate not an actual grill. He also grilled Griga and Furton’s skull fragments, too. When Jorge Delgado saw this, he yelled at Lugo who reluctantly agreed to move his operation to a nearby rear ally. Thankfully for them, Dexter wasn’t nearby {it being Miami}.)

At least one member of the Sun Gym gang robbed an armored truck only to get his toe shot off. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, this scene with Dwayne Johnson’s character is entirely fictional. Still, Dwayne Johnson’s character in the film as a composite of Jorge Delgado, Carl Weekes, and Mario Sanchez.)

Adrian Doorbal was a mild mannered man. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, he was violent and sadistic just as all his fellow Sun Gym gang members. And he was much more of an unstable lunatic as well.)

Daniel Lugo wanted to kidnap Marc Schiller over the latter stealing $300,000 from him. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Lugo just wanted Schiller’s assets and used the money stealing as an excuse.)

One of the Sun Gym members worked at a church and had a gay priest come onto him. (Contrary to what goes on with Dwayne Johnson’s character in Pain & Gain, Carl Weekes didn’t work at a church or had an old gay priest come on to him. Yet, he was drug addicted ex-con who found Jesus.)

One of the Sun Gym members testified against is fellow gang members after an attack of conscience. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, Jorge Delgado just testified against his fellow gang members just to get a lenient sentence in which he got 15 years yet only served 7 ½ {while Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal got the death penalty}. Dwayne John’s other real-life counterpart Carl Weekes who drove the car to run over Marc Schiller got 10 years for attempted murder. He served 7. Yet, he was described as a “weakling” by his fellow gang members since he weighed only 140 pounds. Still, like Dwayne Johnson’s character, both Delgado and Weekes declined to participate in subsequent crimes after the whole Marc Schiller thing.)

The Sun Gym gang held Marc Schiller for weeks because he was resisting. (They held him for that long because the paperwork to sign over everything he had took time. Yet, unlike in Pain & Gain, neither Daniel Lugo nor Adrian Doorbal had any qualms about killing him.)

Members of the Sun Gym gang were vicious morons and steroid-using bodybuilders. (Yes, they were steroid using bodybuilders. Yet, they were said to be the worst combination of manipulation, muscle, and murderous intent.)

Cindy Eldridge:

Cindy Eldridge was a heavyset nurse who met Adrian Doorbal during her work at the doctor’s office. They had a whirlwind courtship and married at home. (Contrary to her Rebel Wilson expy in Pain & Gain, she kind of resembled Tanning Salon Barbie and was a real fitness fanatic. Though she was a nurse who referred him to a doctor who used hormone therapy to treat the weak libidos of steroid users, she didn’t meet Doorbal as she was working but they rather met by chance in 1995 at a restaurant in Key Biscayne on the evening of her surprise 31st birthday party. Not only that, but they only married after dating for over a year at a courthouse but the union lasted for four days when she found out, Doorbal only married her so she couldn’t testify against him with regard to his role in kidnapping Marc Schiller or killing Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, whose blood she helped Doorbal clean up at his home despite not knowing what actually happened at the time {you think she would being a nurse and all}.)

John Mese:

Sun Gym owner and accountant John Mese was arrested at his own gym. (Contrary to the Michael Bay movie, he was arrested during his own bodybuilding competition in downtown Miami. Also, two of the composites to Dwayne Johnson’s character were arrested at home, not at church. )

Marc Schiller:

Marc Schiller was a sleazy criminal. (Contrary to his Tony Shalhoub expy in Pain & Gain, the real Marc Schiller wasn’t a sleazy man in which he said, “There is no resemblance to me at all. I was always a humble, family person.” At the time, he lived in a two story poolside house with a wife and two kids as well as said that he never smoked cigars and was never surrounded by women in scantily clad bikinis {though having the Sun Gym gang kidnap a wholesome family man that Schiller wouldn’t elicit much sympathy on their part, especially since he drove a Toyota not a BMW with a “Miami Bitch” license plate}. He owned the failing Schlotzsky’s Deli franchise but still had seven figures at the bank thanks to his nutritional supplements companies. Still, the sleazy side of the Tony Shalhoub character in Pain & Gain may be based on Frank Griga who ran a phone sex business as well as smoked cigars surrounded by women in bikinis. As far as criminal activity is concerned, after he testified against the Sun Gym gang, he was arrested by federal agents as he left the courthouse. He was charged with orchestrating a Medicare billing scheme through his nutritional supplement companies. To make things worse, Sun Gym gang member Jorge Delgado was one of the witnesses to testify against Schiller, who pled guilty trying to conspiring to defraud the government. He received 46 months in prison and was ordered to pay back the government $14.6 million {it would be reduced to $128,597.87 and Schiller now insists he’s innocent and just too exhausted to defend himself}. Let’s say that unlike Mr. Monk’s kitchen floor, Marc Schiller’s record wasn’t exactly squeaky clean. Nevertheless, Marc Schiller wasn’t happy with Pain & Gain because the kidnapping incident basically ruined his life and he lost everything over it. Today he just lives in a one bedroom apartment, works for a company at $20 an hour, is divorced from his wife and only sees his kids on occasion, and has little interest in socializing and making friends. I think Michael Bay owes him an apology.)

Marc Schiller recognized Daniel Lugo from his cologne. (He recognized Lugo through his voice.)

Marc Schiller had a boat. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, he didn’t but Frank Griga did so Daniel Lugo couldn’t escape in it as he does in the movie.)

Marc Schiller helped catch Daniel Lugo by hitting him with a car in the Bahamas. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, neither Schiller nor Detective Ed DuBois were present at Daniel Lugo’s capture. Instead, Lugo was apprehended at the Hotel Montague in Nassau by a multiagency task force. Also, contrary to the movie, his girlfriend and parents went with him.)

Law Enforcement:

Ed DuBois:

Ed Dubois was a retired detective with a beautiful wife when he got the call from Marc Schiller. (Contrary to Pain & Gain, he was working for the NFL as a security consultant for Super Bowl XXIX in Miami and operating his P. I. firm he inherited from his dad {and as of 2014, he’s still working as private investigator}. He also had a leg up in the investigation because he knew the Sun Gym owner, John Mese. He was also much younger than as played by Ed Harris.)

Miscellaneous:

Frank Griga had a New York accent. (He had a Hungarian accent.)

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