MAYS LANDING — Two of the remaining defendants pleaded not guilty Thursday on racketeering charges prosecutors allege are connected to the 2012 murder of April Kauffman.
Prosecutors say Paul Pagano, 51, of Egg Harbor Township, and Cheryl Pizza, 37, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, were part of a drug ring run through April Kauffman’s now-deceased husband James Kauffman’s medical practice.
Pagano’s attorney Charles Peruto said after the arraignment that he made an agreement for his client to go to trial separately from the other alleged associates in the case, and said there’s little evidence Pagano did anything with drugs other than obtain and use them.
“There’s nothing in the discovery that says he did anything criminal,” Peruto said. ”It’s a shame that an average guy has to pay all these counsel fees to defend himself.”
Peruto, along with Pizza’s attorney Kevin S. Smith, both filed motions for a bill of particulars, which requests specific discovery pertaining to the defendants’ involvement in the case.
Smith said following the arraignment he is trying to “narrow down” the amount of discovery in the case pertaining to Pizza, who has not been in the state since moving to North Carolina in 2014.
In court Thursday before Judge Bernard DeLury, Peruto, a Philadelphia-based attorney who has represented then-reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, said he went through discovery for hours and found much of it had nothing to do with Pagano.
Peruto has previously said his client was no longer a member of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang in Atlantic County and did not have a hand in selling prescription opioids, but has had several injuries from motorcycle crashes.
“There’s nothing (in the discovery) that says he did anything with the drugs except for get prescriptions filled and eat them,” Peruto said in court.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy, who is representing the state in this case, said there have not been any conclusions on plea offers for Pagano or Pizza.
Pizza will appear in court for a status conference June 13, and Pagano will appear June 14.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced the racketeering charges against Pagano, Pizza and four other defendants Jan. 9, along with murder charges against James Kauffman and Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello, 62, of Upper Township, in the death of April Kauffman who was found dead at age 47.
Prosecutors alleged April Kauffman’s death was motivated by her husband’s desire to hide the opioid drug ring. Augello, the alleged Pagans leader accused of hiring a hitman to kill April Kauffman, pleaded not guilty last week in the case and remains in jail.
James Kauffman was found dead in his Hudson County Jail cell on Jan. 26 in an apparent suicide.
The four additional co-defendants in the case charged with racketeering — Beverly Augello, 48, of Summerland Key, Florida; Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas section of Lower Township; Tabitha Chapman, 35, of Absecon; and Glenn Seeler, 38, of Sanford, North Carolina — also pleaded not guilty earlier this month.