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Former Gainesville Airport Employee Chooses Trial Over Plea Deal In Missing Money Case

The man charged in the theft of nearly $50,000 from the Gainesville Regional Airport rejected a plea agreement on Wednesday and chose instead a jury trial later this month.

Paul Adjan appeared in front of Circuit Judge Phillip Pena, who reviewed with attorneys from the prosecution and defense a plea deal that would have required Adjan to plead to a single charge of grand theft and pay full restitution in exchange for being able to argue for a lighter sentence. If convicted at trial on all three felony charges against him — aggravated white collar crime, money laundering and grand theft — Adjan faces a maximum of 75 years in prison and a minimum sentence of 89 months (a little more than seven years).

Gainesville police began investigating missing money following an airport audit in the spring of 2017. Detective Matthew Goeckel wrote in a sworn complaint that the investigation found Adjan to have misappropriated $48,702 in cash from the airport's automated parking payment system in 2016 and early 2017. Adjan has maintained a plea of not guilty and previously told WUFT the missing money was the result of glitches in the payment system, which the airport installed in late 2015.

The airport fired Adjan in June 2017, and police arrested and charged him in February 2018. Since then, court records show jury selection has been scheduled and delayed six different times. Pena on Wednesday set a two-day jury trial to begin July 29.

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing or calling 352-294-1525.