By BRUCE SHIPKOWSKI, Associated Press
A New Jersey doctor running an illegal prescription opioid drug ring with a motorcycle gang had a member hire someone to kill his wife after she threatened to expose the scheme while trying to force him to agree to a divorce, authorities said Tuesday.
James Kauffman and a member of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang were charged in the May 2012 shooting death of radio host April Kauffman. Another six people connected to the gang were charged with racketeering in the drug ring, which prosecutors said continued until last summer, when Kauffman was arrested at his office while brandishing a gun.
Kauffman “was intent to have her killed, as opposed to losing his financial empire,” Atlantic County prosecutor Damon Tyner said.
Ferdinand Augello, the Pagan charged with finding someone to kill April Kauffman, also was charged Tuesday with trying to have James Kauffman killed, authorities said.
Kauffman has long maintained his innocence and denies any involvement in his wife’s death, his attorney Ed Jacobs told Philly.com. It wasn’t immediately known if Augello or any of the other defendants had lawyers to represent them.
April Kauffman’s daughter, Kimberly Pack, who had long alleged that her stepfather killed her mother, said the death “forever changed my life.”
“I have been waiting patiently for justice, and today I was lucky enough to be granted justice,” Pack said. “I think for the first time, today I can actually breathe.”
Pack had earlier fought a legal battle against her stepfather sparked by his attempts to claim April Kauffman’s two life insurance policies. His claim was turned down because prosecutors couldn’t provide a letter saying he wasn’t considered a suspect.
April Kauffman was a local businesswoman who hosted weekly talk shows and advocated for military veterans. She had received a governor’s award for outstanding community service a few days before her death.
Prosecutors said James Kauffman gave free prescriptions to people sent by Augello and Augello would receive $1,000 per script or a number of pills after the script was filled. Those who received them either used the drugs or sold them, authorities said.
In the summer of 2011, April Kauffman wanted a divorce and after James Kauffman objected she threatened to expose the drug ring, Tyner said.
Tyner said that Kauffman told Augello about his wife’s threats and solicited him to have her killed. After about a year, a man who agreed to do it, Francis Mullholland, was driven to the home, where the doors were left open, and was given a gun, authorities said. April Kauffman, 47, was shot twice, and her body was found by a handyman.
Tyner said Mullholland, who said he got about $20,000 in cash, was later found dead of a drug overdose.
Mullholland originally was identified as a cousin of a member of the motorcycle gang, but a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office later said that was incorrect. She declined to release more details about him.
Prosecutors said the drug empire lasted until June, when Kauffman was arrested on weapons charges at his Egg Harbor Township office. Authorities said he brandished a handgun as agents executed a search warrant and said, “I’m not going to jail for this!” A hostage negotiator persuaded him to surrender.
Kauffman’s license was suspended after his arrest.
Shipkowski reported from Trenton, New Jersey.