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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Aubrey Lee Price accused of $40 million fraud goes missing

Georgia banker Aubrey Lee Price has been missing since at least June 16.

When Georgia banker Aubrey Lee Price vanished last month, he not only left friends and family fearful for his life but the federal government chasing him in connection with a $40 million fraud.

Price, 46, has been missing since at least June 16.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged him with wire fraud for the embezzlement of $17 million from the Montgomery Bank & Trust, where he was a director in charge of investments.

Instead of investing in treasury securities as he was supposed to, Price is accused of diverting the funds to bank accounts in his control at other institutions, and then covering his tracks by fabricating paperwork.

Price is also accused of losing between $20 million and $23 million of his clients’ funds, according to a complaint from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which states he admitted he "falsified statements with false returns" to hide the losses.

"Price raised nearly $40 million from investors and made woeful financial transactions that he hid from them," William P. Hicks, Associate Director of the SEC's Atlanta Regional Office, told CBS News. "Now both the money and Price are missing."

The complaint alleges that Price invested money from 115 investors and suffered huge losses, while simultaneously creating fictitious account statements for clients.

In a "Wanted" advisory from the FBI, the agency states Price "disappeared after telling acquaintances that he had lost a large amount of money through trading activities, and that he planned to kill himself."

On June 18, Price's family and friends received letters from the missing banker saying he was headed to Key West, Florida, where the FBI says he was last seen boarding a ferry boat headed for Fort Myers.

Soon after, Price's family filed a missing person report, CBS reported.

The failed Montgomery Bank & Trust was closed on July 6 and acquired by another Georgia-based bank.

Based on the letter he sent friends and family, investigators have labeled Price possibly suicidal but advise that he may have left the country, and could be hiding out in Venezuela or Guatemala.

He had "previously stated that he owns real estate in Venezuela" and "may own a boat that would be large enough to travel to Venezuela from Florida," the FBI notice reads.

Price reportedly returned from his most recent trip to Venezuela on June 2, two weeks before he disappeared.

"Mr. Price could be anywhere," the FBI's Steve Emmett told WSB Radio. "But we have information, based on comments and statements that he left behind, that he might be in Venezuela or Guatemala."

The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information to help find Price, and has asked anyone with information to call 404-679-9000.

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