Two more defendants in the murder case of April Kauffman have pleaded guilty in exchange for testimony during a trial expected to begin in September.
Beverly Augello, of Summerland Key, Florida, and Tabitha Chapman, of Absecon, became the fourth and fifth defendants in the case to take plea deals from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.
The two women were both charged with racketeering related to an opioid drug ring run out of James Kauffman’s medical practice. Prosecutors allege Kauffman’s wife, April, had threatened to expose his illegal activities, including the drug ring, which led him to hire a hitman to kill her.
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Augello, 48, represented by attorney Hal Kokes, and Chapman, 35, represented by attorney James Grimley, pleaded guilty to third-degree conspiracy to possess drugs, specifically OxyContin. In addition, Augello pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine during a traffic stop in April on Route 50 in Upper Township. In the second matter, Augello was represented by Meg Hoerner and her plea was conditioned upon lab results.
“In return, the state is seeking a sentence no greater than four years in New Jersey state prison,” Kokes said, adding that he will seek a suspended sentence.
Grimley said Chapman will make an application to the pretrial intervention program, and if she is not accepted he would seek a suspended sentence as well. DeLury said Chapman was likely facing a probationary term due to not having a previous criminal record.
Sentencing for both women is set for Oct. 25.
But prior to that, they will testify in the trial of Augello’s ex-husband Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello, of Upper Township, accused of arranging for the hitman to murder April Kauffman and attempting to have James Kauffman murdered, in addition to leading the drug ring.
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According to case documents, Beverly Augello allegedly picked up money from Kauffman’s office and delivered it to her ex-husband after April Kauffman’s murder. An affidavit of probable cause claims both Chapman and Beverly Augello received prescriptions for OxyContin from James Kauffman, and that some of those pills were then distributed back to Ferdinand Augello.
Ferdinand Augello, 62, is represented by attorney Mary Linehan, who sat in on Beverly Augello’s court appearance Thursday. He was in court Wednesday for a pretrial motion “in limine,” which, according to U.S. law, are motions made to exclude evidence or testimony during trial.
The state was represented Thursday by Atlantic County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher D’Esposito.
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April Kauffman, 47, was found shot to death May 10, 2012, inside the Linwood home she shared with her husband, James. The Prosecutor’s Office said James Kauffman paid Ferdinand Augello to hire Francis Mulholland to kill his wife to keep her from exposing his drug ring and from winning a large divorce settlement. James Kauffman was found dead in his jail cell by apparent suicide in late January, two weeks after the charges were announced.
Since being indicted in April, three other defendants in the case, all charged with racketeering, have pleaded guilty in the case: Glenn Seeler, 38, of Sanford, North Carolina; Cheryl Pizza, 37, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina; and Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas section of Lower Township.
Defendant Paul Pagano, 52, of Egg Harbor Township, has a court appearance slated for 11 a.m. Aug. 30.
Trial for Ferdinand Augello is set to begin with jury selection Sept. 11.
A gag order instituted by DeLury prohibits anyone involved with the case from speaking about it outside the courtroom.