New Jersey

New Jersey Doctor Accused of Murder-for-Hire Plot to Kill Wife Dies in Jail Cell Suicide

Dr. James Kauffman was in jail awaiting trial in the 2012 murder-for-hire killing of his wife April Kauffman.

The New Jersey doctor accused of working with a motorcycle gang to run a drug ring and have his radio host wife killed was found dead in his jail cell Friday in an apparent suicide.

Dr. James Kauffman, 68, was found dead inside his cell at Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearney around 9:20 a.m. Friday, the prison confirmed to NBC10’s Ted Greenberg.

Authorities did not release details of how Dr. James Kauffman died but say they do not believe foul play was involved.

A source with direct knowledge of the incident said a six-page note was discovered next to Kauffman's bed. Kauffman was discovered face down on the bed. He used a torn bed sheet to asphyxiate himself, the source said.

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Dr. James Kauffman was accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife April Kauffman in 2012.

Kauffman was charged with arranging the 2012 killing of his wife, April, to prevent her from exposing an illegal drug distribution ring he was running with the Pagans biker gang.

Kauffman's attorney, Ed Jacobs, reacted to the death of his client.

"I feel for his widow and can’t help but think the enormous strains of the last 5-and-a-half years have taken their toll on Jim and perhaps they have taken their toll on his passing," Jacobs said.

He had been the subject of "credible threats to his life" after his arrest, prompting his transfer from the Atlantic County Jail in Mays Landing, New Jersey, to the Hudson County jail nearly 100 miles north, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said. 

A co-defendant in the case also is charged with trying to have Kauffman killed behind bars to prevent him from coming to trial.

Kauffman and 61-year-old Ferdinand Augello worked with the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang to illegally distribute drugs from Kauffman's Egg Harbor Township medical practice, prosecutors said.

Investigators allege Kauffman wrote free 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.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said April Kauffman learned of the operation in 2011 around the same time she planned to file for divorce from James.

"She threatened to use this as leverage to expose him to gain a favorable divorce settlement," Tyner said.

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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, Frank 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.

After the killing, Mullholland received an unknown payment from a member of the motorcycle gang, according to officials. Mullholland said he received around $20,000 in cash though investigators speculate the amount was higher.

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.

This story will be updated.

SUICIDE PREVENTION: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 provides people in distress, or those around them, with 24-hour support. The Crisis Text Line allows people to text 741-741 to connect with crisis counselors.

Visit NBC10's special report Preventing Suicide: Breaking the Silence to learn how you can stop suicide in your community.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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