A Georgia banker who mysteriously disappeared in 2012 amid speculation he was operating a massive banking and investment fraud has been arrested in Georgia after being detained for a minor traffic violation. Aubrey Lee Price, 47, had been wanted by civil and criminal authorities since he left a suicide note and boarded a ferry in Key West in July 2012. Despite being declared dead by a Florida judge in 2013, Price remained on the FBI's Wanted list as authorities continued to doubt the veracity of the suicide note. Price was stopped for a tinted windows violation in Glynn County, Georgia, on New Years Eve, and his evasive answers eventually led officers to discover Price was wanted by the FBI.
Beginning in 2009, Price began raising money through several entities he controlled, including PFG, LLC, and Montgomery Asset Management, LLC f/k/a PFG Asset Management, LLC. Price offered interests in these funds to potential investors, who believed they were investing in a fund that sought "positive total returns with low volatility" through investing in low-risk securities such as equity securities traded on the U.S. markets. Price would later use investor funds to purchase an equity ownership interest in a South Georgia bank on the brink of failure.
Price kept a majority of investor funds in a securities trading account at Goldman Sachs. Despite representations that he was achieving consistent trading gains in the form of account statements made available to investors, Price is alleged to have suffered massive trading losses of at least $20 million. Additionally, Price is alleged to have used the acquisition of Montgomery Bank & Trust ("MB&T"), a failing South Georgia bank, to withdraw millions of dollars of the bank's cash assets and reserves. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Price transferred at least $10 million from the bank to a trading account at Goldman Sachs, and attempted to conceal the fraudulent nature of his activity by providing fictitious account statements and representation letters to bank regulators. In total, Price is accused of embezzling at least $21 million from MB&T.
In June 2012, Price boarded a ferry terminal in Key West, Florida. He left behind a rambling suicide note in which he indicated that he was "incapable of continuing in this life," and that he "created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help." Price repeatedly alluded that he planned to kill himself, and he had not been seen since boarding the ferry Authorities posted the following surveillance video of Price below:
Following discovery of the suicide note, authorities conducted a massive manhunt for Price. Not willing to accept Price's suicide note at face value, authorities in Georgia and New York later indicted Price on fraud charges. While the Georgia charges related to Price's involvement with the failing MB&T, a New York grand jury indicted Price on wire fraud and securities fraud charges.
Price's trail had run cold until Georgia police conducted a routine traffic stop on suspicions that the car Price was driving had illegal window tint. The arrest undoubtedly will prompt authorities to investigate how Price was able to evade authorities for nearly 18 months. Additional charges could also be filed against any individuals that assisted Price in avoiding capture.
The Securities and Exchange Commission's civil lawsuit against Price is available here.
For more news and analysis of Ponzi schemes, visit Ponzitracker, a blog by Jordan Maglich, an attorney at Wiand Guerra King P.L.
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