MAYS LANDING — Dr. James Kauffman plotted with the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang to build a massive opioid drug ring, and when his wife found out and threatened divorce, he had her killed to protect his drug “empire,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said Tuesday.
In a brief but explosive press conference that ended years of speculation but little action by authorities, Tyner announced murder and drug conspiracy charges against Kauffman and seven Pagan members or associates, one of whom was charged Tuesday with the 2012 murder of April Kauffman.
“For the past 5½ years since April Kauffman was found shot to death inside her home in Linwood, New Jersey, there has been little movement in this case and no arrests have been made in connection with the murder. That is, until today,” Tyner said Tuesday at his office.
Tyner said the doctor’s motive was to protect a drug ring of recruiters peddling opioids through his Egg Harbor Township endocrinology practice. Threatened with divorce and revealment by April, he paid a hit man $20,000 to kill her, Tyner said.
“He was intent to rather have her killed as opposed to losing his financial empire, as he described it to several individuals,” Tyner said. “We are very excited today because this has gone on for far too long.”
Kauffman’s attorney, Edwin Jacobs, of Jacobs and Barbone in Atlantic City, was not present for the press conference and was unavailable Tuesday for comment.
Kauffman, 68, has been in custody at the Atlantic County jail since his arrest in June on weapons and obstruction charges related to the execution of a search warrant at his Ocean Heights Avenue office. The office has since closed, and his medical license has been suspended. Kauffman pleaded not guilty to the charges in September, and a trial date on those charges has not been scheduled.
Tyner identified Ferdinand Augello, 61, of the Petersburg section of Upper Township, as Kauffman’s co-conspirator in both the drug ring and the murder-for-hire. Both he and Kauffman were charged with being leaders of the drug ring, Tyner said.
According to Tyner, after months of unsuccessfully attempting to hire someone to kill April Kauffman, Augello found Francis Mullholland, a friend of a Pagan associate, to shoot and kill her in exchange for $20,000.
Mullholland died of a drug overdose in October 2013, Tyner said.
Augello was charged with racketeering, murder (of April Kauffman) and conspiracy to commit murder of James Kauffman.
Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas section of Lower Township, was charged with racketeering.
Beverly Augello, 47, of Summerland Keys, Florida, was charged with racketeering.
Glenn Seeler, 37, of Sanford, North Carolina, was charged with racketeering.
Paul Pagano, 61, of Egg Harbor Township, Tabitha Chapman, 35, of Absecon, and Cheryl Pizza, 36, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, were all charged with racketeering.
April Kauffman, 47, was found dead May 10, 2012, inside the couple’s home on Woodstock Drive in Linwood. James Kauffman was never named a suspect in the case, but in May 2017, he was the subject of a court motion by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to obtain DNA as part of the murder investigation. Judge Bernard DeLury sealed his decision on the motion.
April Kauffman was known mostly for her advocacy work for veterans. She she was also a radio host, entrepreneur and hairdresser.
In the early morning hours of May 10, 2012, Mullholland was given a ride to the Kauffman residence, Tyner said, but did not specify by whom.
“The doors were left open, and Frank Mullholland was given a gun to carry out his task. He went inside, and he shot April Kauffman twice,” Tyner said.
At the time of the murder, it was reported that April Kauffman was found face down in her bedroom by a caretaker. James Kauffman, was at work rushed home to the scene. After being interviewed by police, Kauffman hired Jacobs as his attorney.
A year after the murder, Kauffman filed a lawsuit against April Kauffman’s daughter, Kim Pack, to prevent her from cashing out her mother’s life insurance policies. In January 2014, Pack held a press conference during which she accused Kauffman, her stepfather, of being responsible for her mother’s death.
Since that time, little to no public movement had been made at the Prosecutor’s Office, until Tyner came into office early last year.
According to Tyner, Kauffman and Augello’s relationship predated the murder plot. He alleged Kauffman would give free prescriptions to people sent to his office by Augello, and at least two people were recruiting for him to obtain scripts. Augello would receive cash — about $1,000 per script — or pills once the prescription was filled.
The business concluded in June with the arrest of James Kauffman, Tyner said.
Kauffman’s arrest sparked renewed interest in the murder as well as new speculation on possible medical fraud. On June 13, as police and the FBI arrived to execute a search warrant at Kauffman’s medical practice, he pulled out a 9 mm handgun, leading to a 45-minute standoff before he eventually surrendered.
Last month a motion to dismiss the weapons charges against Kauffman was denied by an Atlantic County Superior Court judge.
After Kauffman’s weapons arrest, Jacobs told reporters five search warrants were issued at Kauffman’s medical office related to a homicide and health care fraud investigation. In addition, a search warrant was issued at his Linwood home, his car, his mother’s home in Margate and a penthouse he owned in Philadelphia with his new wife, Carol Weintraub.
All search warrants were issued by the state, not the federal government, although the FBI was involved in the execution, Tyner said previously.
During the execution of the search warrants, about $100,000 in cash was recovered from Kauffman’s office, his Linwood home and the Philadelphia condominium, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Meanwhile, a health benefits fraud investigation initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office over the summer — which is running parallel to an ongoing federal investigation centered on South Jersey doctors, pharmaceutical representatives and public employees — may also involve Kauffman.
In August, Tyner said subpoenas issued by the state to Margate, Atlantic City and Ventnor requesting employee health benefits information was partially related to the search of Kauffman’s office in June.
Local FBI spokeswoman Special Agent Jessica Weisman said she could not comment on whether the drug conspiracy Kauffman is charged in was related to the ongoing federal health benefits fraud investigation.
Tyner declined to take any questions after the press conference. He said he could not comment on the pending health benefits investigation.