Hal Kreitman, a Bodybuilding, Fetish-Partying, Ex-Chiropractor, Finds New Life Swimming With Wild Alligators | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Hal Kreitman, a Bodybuilding, Fetish-Partying, Ex-Chiropractor, Finds New Life Swimming With Wild Alligators

Hal Kreitman is having a staring contest with an eight-foot bull gator. It's a Monday morning, and fast-moving cloud cover yanks shadows across a shallow pond nestled along an empty stretch of Loop Road in the Everglades. Kreitman -- 51 years old, salt-and-pepper hair, circle medallion glinting off his gym-ripped chest -- is knee-deep in water the color of whiskey. Staccato ticking noises sound from the back of his throat.

Only a few feet in front of him is the alligator, a scarred-up male, boss of the pond. A long, deep snort bellows menacingly from his parted jaws. Five other alligators appear and weave through the water. Eye-to-eye with the old male, Kreitman fails to see one sneaking up on his right, its snout just breaking the surface like a cresting submarine. Suddenly, both gators blast toward Kreitman. But instead of running, he stomps forward, flinging water in both directions.

The gators curl away.

Kreitman heaves a deep sigh. "That was the closest ever," he says, walking deeper into the water. "I was watching one and didn't see that other one." His face, usually a hard, sun-beaten slab, dents with a giddy smile. Then the grin snaps off. "Is there a car coming?" he asks abruptly, leaning toward the road. "It's not a cop, is it?"

Kreitman's backstory is certified only-in-South Florida. He's a bodybuilder who was once crowned Mr. Miami, a sometime Z-movie actor, a sex fetish party habitué, an ex-Lincoln Road chiropractor, and, most recent, a felon facing eight years in federal prison for his part in an insurance fraud scheme. (He's appealing.) Now he has a new role: alligator whisperer.

What Cesar Millan is to yappy Pekingese, Hal Kreitman is to gators. A muscle-bound Doctor Dolittle with a preternatural ability to tune into a gator's mental frequency, he's been swimming with the creatures for the past six months. The evidence is there in the videos and photos he posts online: Kreitman gently petting gators, swimming up close, even planting kisses on their snouts. His reptile touch has won over grizzled Gladesmen, and he recently began offering tourists an experience unlike any other. "I was brainwashed like everybody else that they were vicious animals that will rip you to shreds," he explains. "That's not true."

Hal Kreitman Seduces a Gator from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

Kreitman's tough-guy, well-tanned shell hides a softy with a lifelong love of animals. When he was growing up in Long Beach, New York, he was the kid on the block always playing with praying mantises, cicadas, and other creepy-crawlies hanging around the Long Island waterfront. He loved fishing, bird-watching, just being outside.

At the State University of New York College at Cortland, when everyone else was at happy hour, he would stomp through the snow looking for owls. Kreitman eventually earned his undergraduate degree in biology. "I'm an explorer," he says. "When I'm outside, I never want to be on the trail; I would always go off it. You don't see anything on the trail because everybody walks it."

But communing with nature doesn't pay the bills. Instead, Kreitman hopped around doing various sales jobs like hawking vacuums. Then, in the mid-'90s, he was involved in a car accident. A subsequent trip to a chiropractor intrigued him, and he went back to school to study the practice. In 1994, he moved to Miami, where he did his internship with a doctor who worked on local film sets. He parlayed the experience into bit parts in films such as Bad Boys II and The Versace Murder.

Kreitman also began swelling up in the gym and entering bodybuilding competitions. Between the late '90s and mid-'00s, he notched 17 events, eventually bagging a Mr. Miami title. Between his acting gigs, bodybuilding, and medical practice, Kreitman found time for regular Everglades trips to photograph the flora and fauna.

But then a legal shitstorm made the natural world his safety net.

Operation Sledgehammer dropped in 2013, a massive, four-year federal probe into insurance fraud at 21 chiropractic clinics controlled by mostly Cuban-American families sprinkled throughout Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. According to investigators, clinic owners tapped healthy individuals to seek treatment from complicit chiropractors for "injuries" from car accidents that never happened. Doctors and patients would then file false claims, collecting personal injury payments from insurance companies. Scammers billed around $20 million in false claims. Investigators netted 93 participants.

Kreitman was among them. He was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, 21 counts of mail fraud, and two counts of money laundering.

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson

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