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 on Tuesday (US time).
James Kauffman and a member of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang were charged in the May 2012 shooting death of April Kauffman.
Another six people connected to the gang were charged with racketeering in the drug ring that prosecutors said continued until last June, 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 at a news conference on Tuesday.
Ferdinand Augello, the alleged Pagan charged with finding someone to kill Kauffman, was also charged on Tuesday with trying to have James Kauffman killed.
Ed Jacobs, an attorney for Kauffman, told Philly.com that he has long maintained his innocence and denies any involvement in his wife's homicide. It wasn't immediately known if Augello or any of the other defendants had lawyers to represent them.
Kimberly Pack, April Kauffman's daughter who had long alleged that her stepfather killed her mother, told reporters Tuesday that her death "forever changed my life."
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.
"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."
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 that James Kauffman gave free prescriptions to people sent by Augello and that Augello would receive US$1000 per script or a number of pills after the script was filled. Those that received them either used the drugs or sold them.
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 given a gun.
April Kauffman, 47, was shot twice and her body was found by a handyman.
Tyner said Mullholland, who said he got about US$20,000 in cash, was later found dead of a drug overdose.
Mullholland was originally 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, including whether he was involved with the gang.
Charged with racketeering in the drug ring were Joseph Mulholland, Augello's ex-wife, Beverly, Glenn Seeler, Paul Pagano, Tabitha Chapman and Cheryl Pizza. It wasn't known if they had attorneys. Augello and Kauffman were also charged with racketeering.
Prosecutors said the drug empire continued 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 June arrest.