Press of Atlantic City
MAYS LANDING — Across a thick pane of scratched glass lined with chipping blue paint, Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello — charged with murder in the 2012 killing of April Kauffman — picked up a black phone from inside the Atlantic County jail and began to speak.
Augello, 62, of Upper Township, is the alleged Pagans motorcycle gang leader charged with the attempted murder of April’s husband, Dr. James Kauffman, and with leading an alleged drug trafficking network. He is adamant the Pagans are a “club,” not a gang, and that he had retired years ago.
On Saturday, two days before a county Superior Court judge ruled on a gag order application by the state that aimed to silence Augello and his Facebook postings ahead of trial, Augello proclaimed his innocence to The Press of Atlantic City during a two-hour interview at the jail.
“Kauffman is the person who set all this up,” Augello said, referring to Dr. James Kauffman, who was charged in the 2012 murder-for-hire of his wife before he was found dead of an apparent suicide in January in his Hudson County jail cell.
Augello’s brown eyes widened as he talked about James Kauffman’s purported suicide note, calling it the “ranting of a nut job.”
On Monday, Judge Bernard DeLury issued a gag for all parties in the case and said both sides’ use of the media had “negatively impacted the jury pool.”
Augello, from the jail Saturday and before the judge’s ruling, said he had someone posting messages on his Facebook account for him; he refused to tell a reporter the name of the person who was posting or how he was getting messages to that person.
His social media accounts have been filled with posts talking about his innocence, citing false narratives from the Prosecutor’s Office, excerpts from grand jury transcripts and evidence that has not yet been made public.
“I must be doing something that they don’t like,” Augello said Saturday.
He has been in the Atlantic County jail since his Jan. 9 arrest, and a county spokeswoman has said inmates do not have access to the internet from inside the jail.
Posted on Augello’s public Facebook account Sunday: “Goodnight my friends from the Atlantic Co. Justice Facility. Thanks for all your support, you can’t imagine how much it means to me. Hopefully I will be talking to you tomorrow and giving you insight on my case. If I am not legally allowed to do so — I leave you with this…I actually made this video completely by myself (the video portion I mean — not the music of course) right outside my sign shop. Thanks for watching & listening, Freddy.”
In April, Augello pleaded not guilty, and he turned down a plea deal during a pre-trial conference Thursday.
The gag order application was submitted by Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy, who argued that an unidentified victim came forward July 5, concerned for their safety and privacy because of Augello’s use of social media, specifically statements made about cooperating witnesses.
Levy argues the posts could threaten the impartiality of the jury and negatively affect co-defendants.
“With each release of content, with each additional piece of information and every line of discovery revealed, defendant Augello has the potential to taint, prejudice and disqualify an innumerable number of jurors,” Levy wrote. “The only hope for a fair trial in this case is to stem the current flow of discovery to the public.”
Augello, holding the phone between his shoulder and ear with his fire-encircled tattoo that reads “1%” showing in full view, said the only victim in this case was April.
Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced in June the investigation into the April Kauffman homicide would be featured on ABC’s “20/20” and would include interviews with himself and other members of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Mary Linehan, Augello’s attorney, said Thursday the state’s gag order motion was “inconsistent with the national media attention that the Prosecutor’s Office entertained.”
On July 9, DeLury ruled the letter would be provided to defense attorneys only and not to the public.
Jury selection for Augello’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 11.
A former husband and wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to their part in a drug ring tied to Dr. James Kauffman.
Cheryl Pizza and Glenn Seeler said they would get prescriptions from Kauffman, even though they had no medical reason for the drugs.
Pizza, 37, who moved to North Carolina with her then-husband in 2014, would get prescriptions for Oxycontin that she would then give to Seeler she said.
“My husband would hold on to them,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to touch them or any of the bottles or nothing.”
Seeler’s visits to the endocrinologist for his diabetes would include getting 120 Percocets, he told the judge. He would get to keep half the 30 mg. pills, and turned the rest over Ferdinand Augello. He said this happened once a month for about three years.
Augello “would hand them off to somebody else to sell,” Seeler said.
Eight people were arrested on racketeering charges in the case. The enterprise was allegedly led by Kauffman and Augello, a former leader in the Pagan Motorcycle Club, according to the charges.
Augello is jailed on charges of murder for the killing of Kauffman’s wife, April, who was found dead in the couple’s Linwood home May 10, 2012.
James Kauffman allegedly put the hit on his wife after she found out about the drug ring and threatened to expose it. The doctor was found dead in his Hudson County Jail cell from an apparent suicide. He had been moved there for his protection because Augello was trying to have him killed, according to the charges.
Augello has vehemently denied this claim.
Seeler, 38, pleaded guilty to second-degree racketee
ring, but could be sentenced under third degree. His attorney, Tim Riley, also can argue for a suspended term at sentencing.
Pizza, who now lives in South Carolina, faces a three-year term with no minimum. She can also argue for a suspended sentence at the time of sentencing.
Pizza was the first to plead Tuesday, implicating Seeler.
The two could not be in the courtroom together since Seeler has a restraining order against his former wife, who was previously charged with shooting him in North Carolina.
Pizza and Seeler bring to three the number who have pled in the case.
Joseph Mulholland previously pled to second-degree racketeering. At that time he said he was paid about $1,000 for each prescription and that Augello was “the boss.”
All have agreed to give truthful testimony at trial, which is set for Sept. 11.