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Gainesville Police Recommend Charges Against Former Airport Employee In Missing Money Case

Updated, Nov. 30: According to court records, an attorney for Paul Adjan submitted a written plea of not guilty on Nov. 23.

Attorney Bennett Hutson also requested the state of Florida provide him with information related to the case in a demand for discovery.

Original story, Oct. 25: Gainesville police are recommending two felony charges against a former Gainesville Regional Airport employee.

In a sworn complaint, police say Paul Adjan took $48,702 in cash from the airport parking lot's payment boxes between April 2016 and March 2017. Adjan was fired in June 2017 from his $55,000-a-year position as airport facilities manager.

Detectives say Adjan was to remove cash from the automated payment system once a week — "on most Fridays" — but that he also began pulling the cash boxes "on most Mondays," and it is the money from those second pulls that "is unaccounted for."

The Gainesville Police Department began its investigation into the missing money after airport chief executive Allan Penksa in April told the airport's board members about the discrepancies. Adjan in June told WUFT News the missing money was not his fault but was instead due to a faulty automated payment system, which was installed in October 2015 and had at least 30 documented technical glitches.

Adjan declined further comment about GPD’s investigation. His attorney, Ben Hutson, did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him.

Penksa said the airport’s accountant in late February noticed a discrepancy in the cash that should have been collected from the parking lot’s automated payment system. The system works like this: A person parking at the airport pushes a button to get a ticket, keeps the ticket, and then feeds cash or a credit card into a machine when they leave.

The airport said in June that $49,090 was missing. Penksa said the $388 discrepancy between that figure and the $48,702 listed in GPD’s complaint is an additional missing deposit, which the airport’s accountant is still reviewing.

GPD says Adjan is responsible for the missing $48,702 because "no other employee at the airport was working or present for every single pull" of the payment system's cash box. In an interview with police, he denied stealing any money and provided bank statements to GPD.

The bank statements, according to GPD, show more than $22,000 in cash deposits during the summer and fall of 2016. Adjan told police he had saved — during the past 25 years — about $15,000 in cash from buying and selling cars.

After the money was discovered missing, Penksa made changes to the keys-handling protocol that requires different employees to open the ticket machine, remove its cash box, and open its cash box.

“There is a separation of those keys,” Penksa said, among three employees. He also said the airport surveillance video system was upgraded to store more footage. After the upgrade was complete, Penksa said, the trail of missing deposits ended.

Detectives are recommending two charges: a second-degree felony for grand theft and a third-degree felony for a fraudulent currency transaction. The state attorney's office is reviewing the complaint and will decide whether or not to file charges against Adjan. If found guilty, the second-degree felony carries a prison term up to 15 years, and the third-degree felony carries a prison term up to five years.

Ethan is the Managing Editor in the Innovation News Center, home to WUFT News.He is a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.