MAYS LANDING — The South Carolina woman who pleaded guilty in the opioid drug ring Dr. James Kauffman ran out of his Egg Harbor Township medical practice — a scheme that resulted in the 2012 murder of April Kauffman — won’t have to go to prison if she stays out of trouble.

Cheryl Pizza, 37, of Murrells Inlet, was given a three-year suspended sentence Thursday by Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. If Pizza is arrested again in the next three years, a judge can send her directly to prison.

“It is very unlikely that she will be involved with drug dealers and motorcycle club members in the future,” DeLury said. “That association entangled her in the instant criminality.”

Pizza’s charges stemmed from the investigation into the murder of April Kauffman, a local veteran’s advocate, businesswoman and radio host who was found shot in her Linwood home.

Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello, 62, of Upper Township, a signmaker and retired member of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle club, was found guilty in October of April Kauffman’s murder, the conspiracy to murder her husband, Dr. James Kauffman, and leading a drug ring. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years in state prison Wednesday.

James Kauffman hanged himself in January in his Hudson County jail cell after he was charged in April’s murder. Francis Mulholland, the hitman authorities believe killed April Kauffman, died in October 2013 from a drug overdose in his home in the Villas section of Lower Township.

Pizza was originally charged with racketeering, distribution of drugs and conspiracy to distribute drugs as part of the drug ring along with five other co-defendants: Tabitha Chapman, 35, of Absecon; Beverly Augello, 48, of Summerland Key, Florida; Glenn Seeler, 38, of Sanford, North Carolina; Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas section of Lower Township; and Paul Pagano, 52, of Egg Harbor Township.

Pizza pleaded guilty in July to third-degree conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance. Chapman, Beverley Augello, Seeler and Mulholland also took deals from the state in exchange for their testimony, but she was the first to be sentenced.

Pizza’s attorney, Kevin Smith, argued for the suspended sentence during the appearance, saying she has always been forthcoming with authorities about how she received the drugs from Seeler, her ex-husband.

“She tells them,” he said, “‘He’s a Pagan. I get my drugs from Glenn, who gets the drugs from Kauffman.’ She’s said that consistently.”

Before she was sentenced, Pizza told DeLury she wished she had never met Seeler.

Meanwhile, Pagano appeared in court for a status conference and turned down an offer from the state for probation. He is the only co-defendant who hasn’t been convicted or taken a plea deal.

“The state’s willing to take an offer of probation, no jail, in return for a plea to a simple possession case, which would be having narcotics without a valid prescription,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said. “That is the state’s final offer, and that would be the extent of the allocution.”

With the deal, the state would not require Pagano to make a statement about anyone else’s involvement.

Pagano left the courtroom to go over the deal with his attorney, Gabriel DeSorte, who was standing in for Charles Peruto Jr., but then turned down the offer.

Pagano’s final pretrial conference is set for Jan. 4.

Chapman, Beverly Augello, Seeler and Mulholland are slated to be sentenced 9 a.m. Feb. 7 before DeLury.

Contact: 609-272-7241 Mbilinski@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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