SAVANNAH, Ga. – In the past two years, a former Georgia investment adviser has been wanted as a fugitive, declared dead and captured alive.
It appears the strange case against Aubrey Lee Price will come to an end Thursday, after prosecutors said they had reached a plea deal over allegations he misspent, embezzled and lost at least $21 million belonging to investors and the Montgomery Bank & Trust.
Price faces 17 federal counts of bank fraud, each punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
"He should be in jail probably for the rest of his life," said Wendy Cross, an Atlanta food truck owner who invested $380,000 with Price and lost it all. "He's left me with nothing."
Price's lawyer declined to comment on the case and details of the plea agreement haven't been made public.
Prosecutors said Price faked financial records to cover his tracks before he disappeared in June 2012 and sent letters to family and friends, hinting that he planned to commit suicide.
A Florida judge declared Price dead at his wife's request six months after he vanished.
The rambling letter Price left essentially confessed to losing his clients' money, though he insisted it all got blown on bad investments and he never stole a cent.
"I created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help," Price's letter said.
He was arrested on New Year's Eve in coastal Georgia when a deputy pulled him over on Interstate 95 because his truck's tinted windows were too dark. During questioning, police said it became clear he was giving them false information about his identity.
Prosecutors say Price had about 115 investors who put $40 million into his private investment firm, but he lost much of their money between 2009 and 2010. Later that year, his investors bought a controlling share of Montgomery Bank & Trust, a move that made Price a bank director and put him charge of investing its capital.
Prosecutors say Price told bank managers he would invest in U.S. Treasury securities, but instead he routed the money to other accounts he controlled.
After nearly two years of seizing and selling Price's assets, a federal receiver is still working to get money for investors and reported recovering about $3.3 million as of April 30.
However, that includes $1.8 million in life insurance payments made after Price was declared dead. Insurance companies have sued to take back that money.