A former Georgia banker who faked his own suicide and then disappeared for months before being caught has pleaded guilty to bank, securities and wire fraud for embezzling approximately $72 million from investors and a federally insured bank, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia announced.
Aubrey Lee Price, 47, formerly of Lyons, Ga., entered the plea in federal district court in Georgia earlier this month in connection with the scheme. Based upon his guilty pleas, Price now faces up to 30 years in prison, millions of dollars in fines, and millions of dollars in restitution to the victims of his fraud.
According to court filings and evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing, in 2010, an investment group controlled by Price invested approximately $10 million in the failing Montgomery Bank & Trust, an FDIC-insured financial institution in Ailey, Ga. Price was then made a director of MB&T and put in charge of investing the bank’s capital, the U.S. attorney says.
Price told MB&T officials that he would invest the bank’s capital in U. S. Treasury securities, but instead, over the next 18 months, Price embezzled over $21 million in capital from MB&T, and lost much of it by investing in risky equity securities and options. To cover up his fraud, Price provided MB&T officials with bogus account statements and other false documents which falsely indicated the bank’s capital was safely held in an account at a financial services firm, when in truth, most of the money was gone.
Price also defrauded numerous individuals who had invested in two investment funds Price managed, PFG LLC and the Montgomery Growth Fund. Price raised approximately $51 million from approximately 115 investors from across the country, and unsuccessfully invested funds in various equity securities, options and real estate, including farms in South America. To cover up his losses, Price posted fake account statements on a secure PFG web site that fraudulently reflected fictitious assets and fabricated investment returns, according to the U.S. attorney.
In mid-June 2012, Price sent acquaintances suicide letters in which he admitted he had defrauded MB&T Bank and his PFG investors, and suggested that he planned to kill himself by throwing himself off a high-speed ferryboat after it left the coast of Florida. He then disappeared until New Year’s Eve 2013 when he was arrested in Georgia after a routine traffic stop.