A Summerland Key artist was arrested last week after prosecutors in Atlantic City, N.J., said she is connected to the 2012 murder of a woman that was allegedly ordered by her doctor-husband when she threatened to expose his pill mill-dealing ring.
Beverly Augello, 47, a native of Orange, N.J., who had been living in the Florida Keys, is accused of picking up the payment for her ex-husband, a Pagans motorcycle club member who was arrested for recruiting the hit man.
She is charged with first-degree racketeering and was arrested Jan. 9. The arrest warrant’s notes read, “illegal distribution of narcotics and a murder,” according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Augello remained locked up without bond Tuesday at the Stock Island Detention Center awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
Dr. James Kauffman, 68, would rather have his wife murdered than go through an acrimonious divorce, prosecutors said.
“Ultimately, James Kauffman made the decision to kill April Kauffman and, based on information and belief, Kauffman told Augello that April threatened to expose the illegal [oxycontin] distribution network they had established,” according to a lengthy statement released Jan. 10 by Atlantic City Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner.
The allegations against a group of people reads like it was torn from the pages of a crime thriller as prosecutors said James Kauffman made sure his wife, April, was shot dead to keep her from spilling to police about the prescription pill-dealing arrangement he allegedly had with the Pagans.
Eight people have been arrested and charged with taking part in the murder and also conspiracy and racketeering: James Kauffman and Ferdinand Augello, 61, who is Beverly Augello’s ex, are charged with pulling off the murder.
Ferdinand Augello is also charged with conspiracy to murder James Kauffman, although prosecutors offered no details on the plot.
“Prior to 2011, James Kauffman and Ferdinand Augello had a relationship which centered on James Kauffman’s medical practice,” prosecutors said. “In the summer of 2011, James Kauffman solicited Ferdinand Augello to murder Kauffman’s wife, April Kauffman. This appears to be for numerous reasons largely centered on April Kauffman’s threats of divorce. James Kauffman stated he would sooner kill April than grant the divorce and lose ‘half his empire.’ ”
April Kauffman was fatally shot twice inside her Linwood, N.J., home on May 10, 2012, and the case ended up with a Keys connection.
The alleged hitman, Francis Mullholland, had said he received approximately $20,000 in cash for his role, though this number has been speculated at being higher, Tyner’s office said. Mullholland has since died.
The murder payment was picked up on the day of the murder by Beverly Augello, along with additional scripts that were used to obtain drugs that day, and the money was given to Ferdinand Augello, prosecutors said.
Tyner’s office decided to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“The investigation was sort of dormant,” Tyner said in an interview with Headline News, adding the case was initially a mystery. He was appointed in March 2017 and ordered his staff to identify homicides that could be solved. His team decided the April Kauffman murder was one of them.
“Basically, we had some assistance with the local field office of the FBI who had been investigating pill mills and some other illegal drug operations,” Tyner said. “It was believed at the time Dr. Kauffman had some involvement.”
James Kauffman had an arrangement with certain Pagans in which he would give free prescriptions for oxycontin to whoever they sent his way. Those people would either fill them or sell them. Ferdinand Augello allegedly received $1,000 per script or a predetermined number of pills once a script was filled.
Kauffman remains in custody at the Atlantic County Justice Facility, where he has been detained since June 13, 2017
Following the murder, the drug enterprise continued for five additional years, prosecutors said: “Those receiving pills did change during that time; however, every person to be involved in the drug enterprise was a Pagan, former Pagan or an associate of a Pagan. The enterprise folded in June of 2017 with the arrest of James Kauffman.”
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen