A Long Island man who is a part-owner of five locations in Nassau County was convicted recently of two murders in 1994 and accused of a third murder in 2003, all in connection with an armored van robbery, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.
Christian Gerold Tarantino, 42 of Dix Hills, had financial interests in Synergy Fitness Clubs in Farmingdale, Levittown, Franklin Square, Massapequa and Long Beach. He was charged in 2008, 14 years after the armored car robbery. Tarantino was convicted of the two murders in federal court on May 23.
Prosecutors said that in June 1994, Tarantino and an associate, Louis Dorval, shot and killed armored van driver Julius Baumgardt as they robbed him of $100,000 on a street in Syosset.
Federal prosecutors added that while Dorval had fired the fatal shot, Tarantino participated in the crime while wearing a pig mask. Some months later, Dorval was arrested on charges in New Jersey that were unrelated to the armored car robbery and he said he would rather abscond than face incarceration.
Prosecutors said that Tarantino, allegedly worried that Dorval would identify him to authorities in an effort to lighten his own sentence, recruited help to kill Dorval and then put his body in a plastic trunk and dumped it into the Atlantic Ocean. The trunk with Dorval’s body was later recovered by the Coast Guard.
At his trial in Central Islip, prosecutors accused Tarantino of orchestrating a third murder of an associate, also in connection to the armored van robbery. Vincent Gargiulio reportedly had secretly recorded Tarantino’s admission of his involvement in the earlier crimes and had tried to blackmail him with the recording.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on the Gargiulio murder and a retrial has been set for August, along with his sentencing for the other two murders.
Gargiulio was the brother of Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider’s wife, Suzette. Twisted Sister is a Long Island-based heavy metal band that gained popularity during the early to mid 1980s.
Following Tarantino’s conviction in May, Snider released the following statement: "We are grateful to finally have some kind of legal closure to these crimes, but that does not change the fact we have lost a son, a brother, an uncle and most of all a beloved friend."
Snider continued that his brother-in-law "Vinny” believed that Chris Tarantino was a “bad person” who needed to be stopped and for that he paid the ultimate price.
"Vinny, we all love you and miss you," he said.
While Snider and his wife Suzette found a measure of solace in the verdict, not everyone is convinced of Christian Tarantino’s guilt.
On a blog called “Support Christian Tarantino,” a woman identified only as “Karen,” makes her feelings known on May 25, only two days after the verdict was handed down.
“If the jury knew Chris the way his family and friends do, there is no way they would believe that he is guilty of what he is being accused of,” she writes. “For more than 20 years I have known Chris and my family and I love him and know that he is a caring, loving person.”
She adds, “Our four children have grown to love him for his true kindness. It is a crime that justice did not prevail the way we had hoped and prayed it would.”
Tarantino's attorney, Michael Rosen of Manhattan, declined to comment on the case.