A former banker and pastor accused of faking his own death after allegedly defrauding investors of $21m has been arrested in a routine traffic stop in Georgia.
Officers pulled over the driver of a pick-up truck because its windows were too heavily tinted, but discovered that he was carrying several forms of identification with differing names and photographs.
Faced with a lengthy detention in a small town jail while his true identity was established, Aubrey Lee Price reluctantly came clean.
"He said: ‘Sit down. I’m going to make you famous’," said Neal Jump, the Glynn county sheriff. "He was tired. I reckon he was ready to get caught."
A check of FBI records soon established that Price (47) was a fugitive wanted on wire and security fraud charges for allegedly embezzling $21m from investors in the Montgomery Bank & Trust, in which he took a controlling interest in 2010.
Price was last seen boarding a ferry in Key West, Florida, shortly after telling acquaintances that he was planning to jump overboard after losing money on financial trades. No body was found but a Georgia judge subsequently declared him dead.
The FBI believed, however, that he had gone on the run and focused their inquiries on Venezuela and Guatemala, where he had previously conducted missionary work and built churches.
Although a Georgia judge declared Price dead, the FBI asserted that the former pastor was still alive and cited his past mission work in Venezuela and Guatemala where he had been known to fund and build churches.
Shortly after his disappearance, a warrant was issued charging Price with mail fraud.
A federal grand jury in Savannah indicted Price in July 2012 on charges he defrauded the Montgomery Bank & Trust of Ailey, Ga., of $21 million.
The indictment says that in 2010 Price controlled a group that invested about $10 million in the failing bank.
He was made a director and put in charge of investing the bank’s capital, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
From January 2011 to June 2012 he misappropriated and embezzled about $21 million from the Montgomery Bank & Trust and covered it up by providing his superiors with “bogus account statements” that said the money was being safely held at a large financial services firm, the indictment says.
An indictment returned in the Eastern District of New York says Price committed fraud through accounts he set up in Sarasota and Bradenton, Fla., where he had lived. A receiver for the Securities and Exchange Commission has seized real estate that Price owned in Sarasota, Bradenton and Longboat Key.
If convicted on the bank fraud charge in Georgia, Price faces a maximum 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Price’s arrest provides some justification for Jump’s decision to outfit two of his cars as patrol units, for which he was criticized by some county commissioners.
The sheriff’s main duties are to operate the jail, provide security and services at the courts and to serve civil papers. The separate Glynn County Police Department typically handles enforcement.
Jump said Tuesday the patrols have produced a lot of window tint, seat belt and other violations, but that Price’s arrest is the biggest thus far.
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