Home New York Press Releases 2013 Fitness Club Owner Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

Fitness Club Owner Sentenced to Life Imprisonment
Defendant Participated in Three Murders Over a Span of Nine Years

U.S. Attorney’s Office April 24, 2013
  • Eastern District of New York (718) 254-7000

Earlier today, Christian Tarantino, the owner of Synergy Fitness clubs on Long Island and New York City, was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his role in the murders of three men between 1994 and 2003. The sentence was imposed by the Honorable Joanna Seybert, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George C. Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office.

Today’s proceeding marks the culmination of a lengthy investigation and prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), and New York City Police Department (NYPD). Following jury trials in 2011 and 2012, Tarantino was convicted of participating in an armored car robbery in June 1994 during which a 47-year-old guard was shot and killed; orchestrating the August 1994 murder of an associate in that robbery, whose body Tarantino dumped from a boat several miles off the coast of Long Island; and conspiring to murder a long-time confidant who had threatened to take evidence of the first two murders to the FBI.

On June 23, 1994, Tarantino, Louis Dorval, and two others ambushed guards of the Mid-Island Check Cashing company as they delivered cash to a business in Syosset, New York. As Tarantino and his associates handcuffed one guard, Dorval shot and killed Julius Baumgardt in the back of the head as he lay face down on the pavement. Six weeks later, when federal law enforcement sought to arrest Dorval on charges in an unrelated racketeering indictment, Tarantino lured Dorval to his own death and, with the help of others, stuffed Dorval’s body in a plastic tool trunk that he then dumped at sea. A U.S. Coast Guard vessel pulled Dorval’s body out of the Atlantic several days later, but the investigations into both killings remained open.

In 2000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, and NCPD began to gather DNA evidence from several individuals. FBI forensic examiners subsequently found a match between Tarantino’s mitochondrial DNA and a hair fragment recovered six years earlier by the NCPD from a getaway car abandoned near the scene of the Baumgardt murder. The investigation also led to the arrest of an associate of Tarantino, who pled guilty in 2001 to engaging in a racketeering murder conspiracy to kill Dorval.

The collection of DNA evidence also led Tarantino’s long-time confidant, Vincent Gargiulo, to secretly tape-record a September 2000 conversation with Tarantino in an apparent effort to secure evidence that would prevent Tarantino or others from falsely implicating Gargiulo in either the Baumgardt or Dorval murders. In that recording, Tarantino implicated himself in both the Baumgardt murder and the killing and disposal of Dorval’s body. In 2003, Gargiulo revealed the existence of the recording to Tarantino and others and threatened to make the tape available to the FBI if he was not compensated for businesses losses. Thereafter, Garguilo wrote the FBI a letter offering to produce a tape that would prove Tarantino’s guilt in the two 1994 killings. However, before the FBI obtained the tape, Tarantino hired a Synergy Fitness gym employee to kill Gargiulo for $35,000. On the morning of August 18, 2003, as Gargiulo walked to work at a construction site Manhattan, that employee approached his victim and fired a single shot from a .22 caliber target pistol into the bridge of Gargiulo’s nose. Gargiulo was pronounced dead a short time later in Bellevue Hospital.

Several months later, Gargiulo’s tape recording was anonymously mailed to the homicide detectives of the NYPD. Analysis by the FBI’s forensic audio lab in Quantico, Virginia, confirmed its authenticity, and at the subsequent trials, juries heard Tarantino admit to his role in the armored car robbery and the subsequent dumping of Dorval’s body at sea.

In May 2011, a jury convicted Tarantino of participating in the murders of Julius Baumgardt and Louis Dorval but failed to reach a verdict on the Gargiulo murder charges. Following a retrial in May 2012, a second jury convicted Tarantino of conspiracy to murder Gargiulo to obstruct justice. Each of the counts of conviction carried mandatory life terms of imprisonment.

“For almost a decade, Christian Tarantino was a one man crime spree, engaging in armed robbery, murder, and murder conspiracy to cover his tracks,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “He controlled his confederates the old-fashioned way—by murdering them. As this investigation and prosecution demonstrate, law enforcement will never halt its efforts to ensure that murderers are brought to justice. Tarantino thought that human life was his to take. He will now spend the rest of his life contemplating the just results of his actions.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the Nassau County Police Department, the New York City Police Department, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, and the New York State Department of Corrections-Office of the Inspector General for their assistance.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “Because he ruthlessly took the lives of three others, Tarantino will spend the rest of his life behind bars. One victim was an innocent man doing his job, murdered in cold blood during a robbery. One was a robbery confederate of Tarantino whom he killed for fear of cooperation with the government. The third victim was also killed to silence him, when he threatened to expose Tarantino. This murderous conduct has been met with stern justice.”

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys James M. Miskiewicz, Sean C. Flynn, and Carrie N. Capwell.

Defendant

Christian Gerald Tarantino, age 46

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