A federal prosecutor charged Monday that a Dix Hills businessman had a longtime friend and associate killed "because he knew too much" about the businessman's involvement in two other murders and was trying to extort him for $500,000.
At Monday's opening of the retrial of Christian Tarantino in federal court, Assistant United States Attorney James Miskiewicz said that Tarantino's longtime friend and sometime business associate, Vincent Gargiulo, had known for nine years about Tarantino's involvement in the 1994 murders of the two other men.
But Gargiulo had not attempted to extort Tarantino until 2003 when "Mr. Gargiulo blamed Mr. Tarantino" for the failure of two health clubs he operated in Manhattan, Miskiewicz said.
The two 1994 murders were that of armored car guard Julius Baumgardt during a botched robbery in Muttontown, and the murder of Louis Dorval, 30, of Elmont and East Meadow, prosecutors said. Tarantino had suspected that Dorval, a participant in the robbery, might become an informant, Miskiewicz said.
In 2003, Gargiulo demanded that Tarantino give him $500,000 or he would go to the FBI with information on the murders, including a tape he had secretly made in which he claimed that Tarantino had confessed his involvement in the Dorval and Baumgardt murders, Miskiewicz said.
At the same time, Gargiulo approached the FBI and said he wanted $500,000 for the tape and information, he said.
Gargiulo had originally secretly made the tape in 2000 not to blackmail Tarantino, but to protect himself, to get Tarantino on record as saying that Gargiulo was not involved in the 1994 robbery and murders, Miskiewicz said.
The tape was made at a time when FBI agent Robert Schelhorn and then Nassau Det. Anthony Zacarese, who were investigating the Baumgardt and Dorval murders, had obtained a DNA sample from Tarantino, who they suspected was involved in both killings, Miskiewicz said.
Gargiulo and Tarantino "laughed, they joked, they whispered," on the tape about the murders, said Miskiewicz, who is prosecuting the case along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Flynn.
A Tarantino defense attorneys, Stephen Rosen, declined to give an opening statement.
Gargiulo's sister, Suzette Snider, the wife of Snider, and Gargiulo's sister-in-law, Wendy Gargiulo, attended the trial Monday. Snider said she was "too shaken" by Miskiewicz's opening statement to comment, and Wendy Gargiulo declined to comment.
Tarantino was convicted last year of the murders of Baumgardt and Dorval, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the Gargiulo killing, and U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert declared a mistrial.
The trial is expected to continue Tuesday.