Fitness Club Owner Convicted of Obstruction of Justice Murder Conspiracy
In a Retrial, Defendant Found Guilty of Conspiracy in Third Murder
Following a three-week trial, a federal jury in Central Islip today returned a verdict convicting Christian Gerold Tarantino, a part-owner of Synergy Fitness Clubs located in Farmingdale, Levittown, Franklin Square, Massapequa and Long Beach, of conspiracy to commit the August 2003 obstruction-of-justice murder of Vincent Gargiulo, a former associate who threatened to reveal evidence of the defendant’s participation in two 1994 murders on Long Island. The jury found the defendant not guilty of aiding and abetting in the murder. The conviction was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
In May 2011, a jury convicted Tarantino of the two 1994 murders, but failed to reach a verdict on the Gargiulo murder. Those earlier murders, however, provided the motive for Gargiulo’s killing and played a prominent role in the re-trial. On June 23, 1994, Tarantino and others committed the armed robbery of a Mid-Island Check Cashing armored van in Syosset, New York, which ended in the fatal shooting of a guard, Julius Baumgardt. Subsequently, in August 1994, Tarantino murdered one of the Baumgardt murder coconspirators, Louis Dorval, because he feared Dorval was about to cooperate with federal authorities. After shooting Dorval in the head, Tarantino and a third associate, fellow Synergy gym partner Scott Mulligan, dumped Dorval’s body – concealed inside a trunk – into the Atlantic Ocean several miles off the coast of Fire Island. On August 16, 1994, United States Coast Guard personnel found the trunk and Dorval’s body floating in the ocean.
During the re-trial, the government’s evidence established that in September 2000, Gargiulo had secretly recorded a conversation with Tarantino, in which Tarantino admitted his involvement in the armored van robbery and the Baumgardt and Dorval murders. In 2003, Gargiulo unsuccessfully attempted to use the recording to extort money from Tarantino by threatening to provide the tape and other evidence relating to Tarantino’s crimes to law enforcement authorities. After the failed extortion, Tarantino hired a Synergy Fitness employee, Justin Bressman, and offered to pay him $35,000 to kill Vincent Gargiulo. On August 18, 2003, as Gargiulo walked to work at a construction site in mid-town Manhattan, Bressman greeted the victim and then fired a single shot at near point-blank range between Gargiulo’s eyes. Bressman was reported missing by his parents approximately one month after Gargiulo’s murder and has never been found.
“The investigation and prosecution of this case reflects the commitment of the government to seek justice for the victims of crimes no matter how long the road,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We can only hope that these verdicts bring some measure of closure to the families of the three victims.” 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 Fedarcyk stated, “The guilty verdict returned today marks the culmination of a long-term quest for justice. In the long run, the defendant failed in his depraved scheme to conceal two murders by participating in a conspiracy to commit one more.”
When sentenced by United States District Judge Joanna Seybert, the defendant faces mandatory sentences of life imprisonment on each of the first two murder convictions, as well as the obstruction of justice murder conspiracy. Sentencing is scheduled for August 17, 2012.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys James M. Miskiewicz, Sean C. Flynn and Carrie N. Capwell.
CHRISTIAN GERALD TARANTINO
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