'Bump' operation led to phone calls, restaurant meeting, jurors told in trial for murder of law prof Markel
David Northway, a public information officer for the Tallahassee Police Department in Florida, reveals an image of Sigfredo Garcia during a press conference in May 2016. Garcia is the convicted triggerman in the 2014 death of Florida law professor Dan Markel. Photo by Joe Rondone/The Tallahassee Democrat via the Associated Press.
Jurors in the murder trial of dentist Charlie Adelson heard Tuesday that he was the first person his mother called after an undercover FBI agent posing as a blackmailer approached her in a “bump" operation.
Adelson is on trial for being the alleged mastermind in the July 2014 murder of his former brother-in-law, Dan Markel, a Florida State University College of Law professor. The FBI recorded the bump, the phone call that followed and a restaurant meeting the next day, according to testimony Tuesday in the trial.
Adelson is accused of ordering a hit on Markel, so that the law professor’s ex-wife, who is Adelson’s sister, could relocate with the former couple’s two children to be near her family in Miami. Markel and his ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, had lived in Tallahassee, Florida. She had been director of FSU’s Public Interest Law Center.
The undercover agent had approached Adelson’s mother, Donna Adelson, outside her Miami condo in April 2016. The agent gave her an article about the murder with “$5,000” written on it, along with a phone number. The agent mentioned “Katie,” a reference to Charlie Adelson’s ex-girlfriend who allegedly hired gang members at his request to carry out the murder. He also used the nickname for one of the gang members.
The undercover agent never mentioned Charlie Adelson, Florida Politics points out. Yet Donna Adelson called Charlie Adelson after the bump.
Donna Adelson said she was hand-delivered “some paperwork,” and they had to talk in person, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“Does it involve me or other people?” Charlie Adelson asked.
“Well, probably both of us,” she said. “Probably the two of us. So you probably have a general idea what I’m talking about.”
They planned to meet the next day.
Charlie Adelson then called his mother back. Donna Adelson told Charlie Adelson that he should bring cash to the meeting. He asked whether someone was blackmailing her.
“Well, that is always a good possibility,” she said.
Charlie Adelson then called the alleged go-between, former girlfriend Katherine Magbanua, who was convicted in the case in May 2022. He told her about the bump and asked her to meet the next day. Their meeting at the Dolce Vita restaurant in Miami was recorded by the FBI and enhanced to make the conversation easier to hear.
During the meeting, Charlie Adelson wondered whether the man who approached his mother was a blackmailer or a police officer, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
“How do you get people to talk?” Adelson said. “You throw a smoke grenade, and then you get all the cockroaches to run out.”
Florida Politics listed other excerpts from the restaurant recording, including these statements by Charlie Adelson:
• “If they had any evidence, we would have already gone to the airport.”
• “But let me explain something to you. If we go to the police, this is gonna put a spotlight on the investigation. The FBI. The FBI. We’re talking about a bigwig in the FBI, not like the first-year rookie. You’re gonna have a 20-year vet with the FBI knocking at your door, wanting to speak with you and wanting to speak with your attorney.”
Magbanua had been romantically involved with Charlie Adelson and the convicted triggerman, Sigfredo Garcia. A friend of Garcia’s, the getaway driver Luis Rivera, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case.