A Georgia banker who disappeared last month after allegedly embezzling $17 million may be traveling in South America, according to federal authorities, who have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Aubrey Lee Price, 46, disappeared on June 16 after telling acquaintances he had blown through money with bad trades and that he planned to kill himself by jumping from a ferry boat off the coast of Florida.
“The scheme Mr. Price allegedly ran is unfortunately one the FBI is all too familiar with; by creating bogus statements with falsified balances and returns, Mr. Price was able to hide mounting investment losses as well as his own monetary gain,” said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office.
FBI Special Agent Michael Howard, according to a criminal complaint, believes that Price may have traveled to Guatemala or Venezuela, where he owns real estate. Authorities say he's gone there in the recent past.
“Airline records show that Price returned to the United States from a trip to Venezuela on June 2,” the complaint reads. “Moreover, I have learned that Price may own a boat that would be large enough to travel to Venezuela from Florida.”
In December 2010, Price, according to the complaint, became a director of Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey, Ga., after the New York-based brokerage firm he managed took over the bank. Months later, in early 2011, Price started buying stock with the bank’s money while providing the bank’s management phony documents that showed he was investing in Treasury bills.
Last month, Price, who was last seen boarding a ferry boat in Key West headed to Fort Myers, Fla., told several acquaintances he planned to commit suicide. At the time, Price was wearing a white T-shirt, tan shorts, a maroon baseball cap and light-colored sneakers, FBI officials said.
“Despite a recent search by the Coast Guard, Price’s body has not been recovered,” the complaint reads.
Price, who has been charged with wire fraud, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance on Friday. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was named as receiver and all deposit accounts have been transferred to Ameris Bank in Moultrie.
Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Price in a civil complaint of defrauding more than 100 investors – mostly from Georgia and Florida – by selling shares of PFG while creating bogus statements with false balances.
In June, Price sent a 22-page letter titled “Confidential Confession for Regulators” admitting that “falsified statements with false returns” in order to conceal between $20 million and $23 million in investor losses.
Wendy Cross, of Atlanta, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she lost $364,000 while investing with Price.
"I don't believe he's dead,” she told the newspaper. “I believe he planned for this exit.”
Anyone with information regarding Price’s whereabouts is asked to call the FBI at (212) 384-1000 or email email@example.com.