Former Bradenton banker suspected in $17M swindle arrested

Associated PressDecember 31, 2013 

Aubrey Lee Price, financial fraud, former Bradenton resident

ATLANTA — A bank director and former Bradenton resident accused of losing millions of investors’ dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, was arrested Wednesday during a stop for a vehicle and traffic violation on Interstate 95 in Brunswick by members of the Glynn County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Savannah said.

Price lived with his wife and children in Bradenton until a few months ago but bought a home in Valdosta before his 2012 disappearance, according to authorities. Price moved his family to the south Georgia city, where his wife’s parents lived, a few weeks before he disappeared. Price is set to make his initial appearance Thursday before a federal judge i n Brunswick.

Price disappeared in June 2012 after sending a rambling letter to his family and acquaintances that investigators describe as a confession. A Florida judge declared him dead a year ago, but the FBI had said it didn’t believe Price was dead and continued to search for him.

Prosecutors have said Price raised roughly $40 million from about 115 investors, mostly in Georgia and Florida, through the sale of membership interests in his investment firm. Authorities believe Price slipped away with up to $17 million of investors’ money. He has been indicted in federal courts in New York and Georgia, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a complaint against him in federal court in Atlanta.

FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett said in an email Tuesday that he didn’t know whether Price’s wife and children knew he was still alive. His family had told investigators they believed Price was dead. A call to a number listed for his wife in Valdosta did not go through.

Price left his home June 16, 2012, in south Georgia telling his family he was headed to Guatemala for business, authorities have said. Two days later, Price’s family and acquaintances received letters saying he was going to Key West to board a ferry headed to Fort Myers and planned to jump off somewhere along the way to end his life.

“My depression and discouragement have driven me to deep anxiety, fear and shame. I am emotionally overwhelmed and incapable of continuing in this life,” said a rambling confession letter investigators believe was written by Price. “I created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help,” the letter said.

Credit card records showed he purchased dive weights and a ferry ticket. The ferry ticket was scanned at the boarding point, and security camera footage released by the FBI about six weeks after his disappearance showed Price at the Key West airport and ferry terminal the day he disappeared.

Price owned real estate in Venezuela and told people he frequently went there and to Guatemala. The FBI said in February investigators had accounted for all the vehicles Price owned, except a 17-foot fiberglass boat. The agency said it was possible Price used the boat to flee. Price became director of Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey, Ga., in December 2010, when a company he controlled bought a controlling portion of the bank’s stock, according to a complaint filed in June 2012 in federal court in New York. Price then opened brokerage accounts through a securities clearing and custodial firm in New York and told bank managers he would invest in U.S. Treasury securities.

Instead of investing the bank’s money, authorities say Price wired the funds into accounts he controlled at other financial institutions and provided bank managers with fraudulent documents.

Throughout 2013, a federal judge approved for the Securities and Exchange Commission to sale Price’s seized properties, including several in Manatee.

Land holdings in Price’s own name include condos at 3500 El Conquistador Parkway Unit 130, two units in Harbor Pines, property at 3211 Florida Blvd., and industrial space at 910 and 950 N. Commerce Blvd. in Tallevast. An additional property owned by Price’s firm PFG was also seized for sale at 3101 Bayshore Gardens Parkway, according to court documents.

The federal manhunt for Price was on just weeks after he sold his home at 3212 Bay Drive in June 2012 through his firm PFG.

Property records also show that PFG still retains ownership of a bank building at 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive in Longboat Key valued at $664,180. PFG performed two quit claim deeds on the property to re-assign the property to itself and from a related company, often a sign of mortgage fraud.

Melanie Damian, a receiver for PFG, signed an affidavit Aug. 27 that PFG and PFG Asset Management, which were used in the quit claim deeds, were one and the same, and specifically was used for the Longboat Key transfer, according to court documents.

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