A New Jersey doctor and an alleged Pagan motorcycle gang member accused of killing the doctor's wife and running an illegal prescription drug ring made an initial court appearance Thursday on murder and racketeering charges.
Dr. James Kauffman, Ferdinand Augello and three of six other defendants, appeared Thursday, via video, in a South Jersey courtroom. None said much, other than giving one-word answers to the judge.
Kauffman has been jailed since his arrest last year on drug charges. He is being held at Hudson County Jail for his own protection, according to Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner. According to court documents, Kauffman may have been targeted for a murder plot inside Atlantic County Jail as well.
"We don’t think it would be prudent for those two to be lodged together," Tyner said of Kauffman and Augello.
At the center of the sordid allegations is the 2012 slaying of radio host April Kauffman, who prosecutors now say threatened to expose the ring. She was found shot to death inside the couple's Linwood home.
Officers found April Kauffman face down in the second floor bedroom of the couple's Woodstock Drive home on May 10, 2012.
A local businesswoman who hosted weekly talk shows and advocated for military veterans, April Kauffman received a governor’s award for outstanding community service a few days before her death.
James Kauffman and Augello, of Petersburg, New Jersey, worked with the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang to illegally distribute drugs from Kauffman's Egg Harbor Township medical practice, prosecutors allege.
Kauffman allegedly wrote prescriptions for highly sought after and addictive opioids — including Percocet, OxyContin and Oxycodone — to people who were sent to his office by Augello.
Augello allegedly received $1,000 in cash per prescription or a predetermined number of prescription pills once the script was filled. Those who did not have insurance were required to pay anywhere between $100 to $250 per visit, according to investigators.
The county prosecutor said April Kauffman learned of the operation in 2011 around the same time she planned to file for divorce from James Kauffman.
With his self-described "financial empire" in jeopardy, James Kauffman and Augello began propositioning several people to murder April Kauffman, according to Tyner. For a year, they were unsuccessful.
Then, in 2012, Augello found Francis "Frank" Mullholland, Tyner said.
During the early morning hours of May 10, 2012, Mullholland received a ride to the Kauffman home and was given a gun. He then allegedly went inside the home through an unlocked door and shot April Kauffman twice before leaving, according to investigators.
Mullholland was found dead 18 months later. Investigators at the time said the manner of death was an accidental drug overdose.
James Kauffman's drug operation continued for five years after his wife's murder, officials said. Every person involved in the enterprise was either a Pagan, former Pagan or an associate of a Pagan, according to investigators.
The operation finally folded when James Kauffman was arrested on weapons charges following a standoff with police at his Egg Harbor Township medical office on June 13, 2017.
In addition to Kauffman and Augello, also charged are Joseph Mulholland (no relation to Frank Mullholland), 52, of Villas, New Jersey; Beverly Augello; Glenn Seeler, 37, of Sanford, North Carolina; Paul Pagano, 61, of Egg Harbor Township; Tabitha Chapman, 35, of Absecon, New Jersey; and Cheryl Pizza, 36, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
Ferdinand Augello is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree leader of racketeering, the first-degree murder of April Kauffman and conspiracy to commit the murder of James Kauffman. The remaining six suspects are all charged with racketeering.