Alive! Former adviser disappeared after allegedly ripping clients off captured

Aubrey Lee Price went missing in June 2012 after revealing private-placement losses in a cryptic letter

Jan 13, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

By Trevor Hunnicutt

A former Georgia investment adviser who disappeared and was presumed dead after authorities said that he bilked clients out of $40 million in a private-placement fraud has been found alive.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, went missing in June 2012 shortly after revealing investor losses in a cryptic letter with suicidal overtones, authorities said.

He was declared dead by a court at his wife's request later that year.

Now Mr. Price is back in court facing criminal charges he eluded.

He pleaded not guilty last Wednesday to federal bank fraud charges in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia before consenting to be held in custody while the case proceeds, according to court records.

There is also a parallel legal proceeding in which the Securities and Exchange Commission has sought to claw back some of the money investors are said to have lost.

Mr. Price, who had previously lost two arbitration cases connected to client accusations of fraud and excessive trading while he was a broker at Smith Barney in 2004, sold shares in an unregistered investment fund, PFG, and made illiquid investments in South American real estate and a faltering bank in southern Georgia starting in 2008, according to the SEC's complaint.

His fund promised “positive total returns with low volatility” in a range of investments, including equities traded on U.S. markets. Authorities said he raised $40 million from investors.

Authorities said that Mr. Price admitted in a 22-page letter that he sent in June 2012 that he provided false statements to investors and regulators claiming to have earned returns on the investments to cover up between $20 million and $23 million in losses.

And he suggested he might commit suicide, authorities said.

Then he vanished.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement officials scoured Florida and Georgia for Mr. Price.

The SEC froze his assets, which include a working corn farm in Venezuela ostensibly bought with proceeds from investors.

A court-appointed receiver was assigned to recoup the money lost by investors.

Mr. Price was arrested New Year's Eve in a coastal Georgia town after being pulled over during a traffic stop.

He was found to be carrying falsified identification, local media outlets reported.

Mr. Price, a former minister, told authorities that he worked odd jobs as a migrant laborer, according to local media reports, citing law enforcement officials who spoke in court.

But authorities in Florida said that he used the name Jason and lived on a rented property where 225 marijuana plants were confiscated on Jan. 1, according to a police report.

Now Mr. Price faces charges carrying a possible penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

After a court session last week, a Georgia man reportedly said that said that Mr. Price had lost the money invested for his granddaughter's college fund.

Two lawyers representing Mr. Price in the criminal action, Joshua S. Lowther and D. Duston Tapley Jr., didn't respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment on Friday. Both lawyers are working at no cost to Mr. Price.

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