Shore doctor James Kauffman charged in 2012 murder of his wife April Kauffman

James Kauffman (left), an Atlantic City-area doctor, stands outside the house he shared with his wife, April Kauffman (right) who was shot to death.

MAYS LANDING, N.J. — After nearly six years of gossip, rumor, and speculation, Shore endocrinologist James Kauffman was charged Tuesday in the death of his wife, radio personality April Kauffman, in an alleged murder-for-hire plot prosecutors said was connected to the Pagan Outlaw motorcycle gang and designed to prevent her from exposing a vast illegal opioid pill distribution operation.

“As a result of April Kauffman’s desire to divorce James Kauffman, he was intent to have her killed, as opposed to losing his ‘financial empire,’  as he described it to several individuals,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said Tuesday.

The dramatic developments, announced at a 4 p.m. news conference, cemented Kauffman’s place in the annals of accused Shore villains. He is already being held in the Atlantic County jail on weapons charges after brandishing a gun in June when authorities executed an early morning search warrant at his popular Egg Harbor Township medical practice.

Tyner said Kauffman, 68, and a coconspirator, Ferdinand Augello, 61, of Petersburg, N.J., conspired for a year to solicit someone to kill his wife  before finding a triggerman, identified by authorities as Francis “Frank” Mullholland. Prosecutors said Mullholland was paid at least $20,000 and given a gun the morning of May 10, 2012. Tyner said he died of a drug overdose in October 2013.

“The doors were left open and Francis Mullholland was given a gun,” Tyner said.

Augello was also charged with trying to kill James Kauffman, Tyner said.  Both Augello and Kauffman were charged with racketeering, along with six others, in connection with the alleged scheme.

The lack of an arrest in the killing of the Shore radio host and veterans’ advocate had deeply troubled April Kauffman’s family, friends, and colleagues, who advocated tirelessly for “Justice for April,” even as Dr. Kauffman’s busy practice continued, and he remarried.

April Kauffman’s daughter, Kimberly Pack, 35, appeared a short time after the news conference Tuesday and told reporters in the lobby of her attorney’s office that the details she heard about the stepfather she has long suspected of playing a role in her mother’s slaying were “gut-wrenching.” She said her mother had shared fears about her husband, but Pack had been unaware of the dramatic larger context laid out by the prosecutor.

“As a victim, May 10, 2012, forever changed my life,” she said. “I have been waiting patiently for justice, and today I was lucky enough to be granted justice. I think for the first time, today I can actually breathe.”

The arrests come 5½ years after the radio host was found shot to death in the couple’s bedroom inside their Linwood home. Despite the unrelenting gossip about the case, the details laid out Tuesday placed the crime in a dramatic new context.

Tyner said James Kauffman maintained a “long-term alliance” with members of the Pagan Outlaw motorcycle gang, an association allegedly created to use Kauffman’s practice for financial gain related to an illegal drug distribution ring.

Kauffman’s practice was shut down last summer after authorities executed a search warrant and conducted a raid and he brandished a 9 mm gun and shouted, “I’m not going to jail for this!”

Tyner said Kauffman had worked with members of the motorcycle gang for the “mutual financial gain” and used his medical practice for illegal drug distribution.

April Kauffman had planned to “spend as much money as she could until a divorce was granted,” prosecutors said, and threatened to expose the drug operation at her husband’s medical office.

As part of the drug scheme, Tyner said, Kauffman wrote prescriptions for various people recruited down a hierarchy tied to the drug distribution.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announces the charging of endocrinologist James Kauffman with the death of his wife, radio personality April Kauffman.

At the time, the raid on Kauffman’s office was said to be related to an ongoing health-care fraud investigation that has snagged a dozen people on federal charges and involves area municipal workers, including firefighters, police officers, and teachers. That scheme involved prescriptions for compound pharmaceuticals like vitamins and scar cream.

But Tyner also said at the time that the raid involved the ongoing investigation into April Kauffman’s murder. 

He declined to say Tuesday whether there was a connection between the Pagan drug scheme and the prescription public health benefits scheme that has ensnared defendants in federal court in Camden.

April Kauffman was found shot to death in the couple’s bedroom after her husband had left for work. Her body was discovered by a handyman who cared for pet birds in the couple’s home in the suburb of Atlantic City. James Kauffman said she was alive when he left and has denied any role in the crime.

Kauffman’s attorney, Ed Jacobs, said he had not officially been informed of the charges but said Kauffman has long maintained his innocence.  “Suffice it to say that Dr. Kauffman has consistently denied any involvement whatsoever in the homicide of his wife,” Jacobs said by telephone. 

Also charged Tuesday was Beverly Augello, the ex-wife of Kauffman’s alleged coconspirator. She is alleged to have picked up the money on the day of the killing, along with additional prescriptions, “used to obtain drugs that day,” the prosecutor said. She was charged with first-degree racketeering.

Tyner said that the drug enterprise continued for five years after the slaying, involving members or former members or associates of the Pagan gang. “The enterprise folded in June of 2017 with the arrest of James Kauffman,” Tyner said.

He said FBI agents were determined not to let the case go unsolved. “This has gone on for too long,” Tyner said.

Kauffman and Ferdinand Augello were each charged with murder, first-degree racketeering, and being a leader of a narcotic trafficking organization. Augello was additionally charged with conspiracy to commit murder related to James Kauffman.

Also charged with first-degree racketeering were: Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas, and Glenn Seeler, 37, of Sanford, N.C. Charged with second-degree racketeering were: Paul Pagano, 61, of Egg Harbor Township; Tabitha Chapman, 35, of Absecon; and Cheryl Pizza, 36, of Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Kimberly Pack, 35, April Kauffman’s daughter, says, “I have been waiting patiently for justice, and today I was lucky enough to be granted justice. I think for the first time, today I can actually breathe.”

Pack, who first fought to get her stepfather to place a headstone at her mother’s grave, then filed a lawsuit charging him with wrongful death, has maintained since the killing that her stepfather was involved. She said she watched the news conference broadcast with her two sons, aged 11 and 7, who she said have become “desensitized” to news of their grandmother’s death.

“This has been our lives since May 10, 2012,” she said. “It’s not fair. They’re children. My 11-year-old was very close to my mom. After watching the press conference, I got a huge squeeze from him and he said: `You know what, Mom? Mimi’s happy.’ “