The Securities and Exchange Commission today obtained a court order to freeze the assets of a Georgia-based investment adviser who has apparently gone into hiding after orchestrating a $40 million investment fraud.
The agency alleges that Aubrey Lee Price, 46, raised money from more than 100 investors living primarily in Georgia and Florida by selling shares in an unregistered investment fund (PFG) that he managed.
The SEC claims that Price, who purported to invest fund assets in traditional marketable securities, also made illiquid investments in South America real estate and a troubled South Georgia bank. In order to conceal mounting losses of investor funds, Price created bogus account statements with false account balances and returns that were provided to investors and bank regulators.
"Price raised nearly $40 million from investors and made woeful financial transactions that he hid from them," said William P. Hicks, associate director of the SEC's Atlanta Regional Office. "Now both the money and Price are missing."
According to the SEC's complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Price is believed to be a resident of Lowndes County in Georgia after moving from Manatee County, Fla.
The Honorable Timothy C. Batten, Sr. granted the SEC's request for a temporary restraining order and entered an asset freeze for the benefit of investors against Price, PFG, and his affiliated entities.
The SEC alleges that Price began his scheme in 2008. According to PFG's private placement memorandum, the investment objective was to achieve "positive total returns with low volatility" by investing in a variety of opportunities, including equity securities traded on the U.S. markets.
A significant portion of PFG investor funds--approximately $36.9 million--was placed in a securities trading account at a broker-dealer. The trading account suffered massive trading losses and money was frequently wire-transferred to PFG's operating bank account. During the time PFG suffered trading losses, client account statements prepared by Price were made available to investors indicating fictitious amounts of assets and investment returns.
The SEC claims that Price sent a letter to some individuals dated June 2012 titled "Confidential Confession For Regulators--PFG, LLC and PFGBI, LLC Summary." In the 22-page letter, Price admits that he "falsified statements with false returns" in order to conceal between $20 million and $23 million in investor losses.
The SEC's investigation is continuing.