New York Gym Owner Arrested in Connection With 3 Murders 9 Years Apart

An owner of a Long Island gym was arrested Wednesday on charges that he murdered an armored-van guard during a heist 14 years ago and later killed two other men to cover up the first shooting.

One of those killed was the brother-in-law of Dee Snider, lead singer of the 1980s head-banging MTV sensation Twisted Sister. Another victim was shot to death, stuffed in a trunk and dumped in the ocean.

FBI agents swooped in on Christian Tarantino in a dawn raid at his mansion in Dix Hills, 40 miles east of Manhattan.

Tarantino, 39, later pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Central Islip and was ordered held without bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

"I expect him to be vindicated at trial," defense attorney James Frocarro told reporters outside the courthouse. Tarantino is due back in court Nov. 21.

Federal prosecutors said Tarantino, a co-owner of the Synergy Fitness Club in Farmingdale, participated in a June 1994 holdup of an armored van in Muttontown, making off with nearly $100,000 in cash. Prosecutors said that during the robbery, one of his associates, Louis Dorval, shot and killed guard Julius Baumgardt.

Two months later, Dorval was arrested on unrelated racketeering-related offenses in New Jersey, including a burglary he committed with Tarantino, prosecutors said.

Worried that Dorval, identified by authorities as an associate of the Lucchese crime family, might tell authorities about the armored van heist, Tarantino and other unidentified conspirators killed him, stuffed him in a plastic tool trunk and dumped the trunk into the Atlantic Ocean, according to the indictment. Four days after the Aug. 12, 1994, killing, Coast Guard officers recovered the trunk floating in the ocean 30 miles off Fire Island.

Prosecutors said another Tarantino business associate, Vincent Gargiulo, secretly recorded a September 2000 conversation between the two in which Tarantino allegedly acknowledged his role in the killings of the guard and Dorval.

Three years later, prosecutors said, Gargiulo tried to extort money from Tarantino, threatening to take the incriminating tape to law enforcement.

On Aug. 18, 2003, Gargiulo was shot and killed on a Manhattan street by someone hired by Tarantino, according to the indictment. After Gargiulo's murder, the secret recording was turned over to New York City police.

Gargiulo's sister Suzette, a costume designer, is married to rock star Snider.

Tarantino could get the death penalty if convicted in the Gargiulo killing because the victim was a potential witness in a federal prosecution, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said the indictment was the result of years of "relentless and painstaking investigation" by the FBI, New York Police Department and Nassau County police.

"In addition to providing some solace to the victims' families, this prosecution demonstrates that the government will never give up in its pursuit of those who commit violent crimes and try to cover their tracks and obstruct justice through murder," Campbell said.