A former minister-turned-bank-director who faked his own death and was even declared legally dead at one point was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for operating a Ponzi scheme that duped victims out of tens of millions of dollars and caused a federally insured bank to go out of business. Aubrey Lee Price, 48, received the sentence after pleading guilty earlier this year to bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud charges. In addition to the prison sentence, Price was also ordered to forfeit $51 million - representing the proceeds from his criminal acts.
Price formed PFG, LLC, and Montgomery Asset Management, LLC f/k/a PFG Asset Management, LLC, in 2009. Potential investors were told that the fund sought "positive total returns with low volatility" through investing in low-risk securities such as equity securities traded on the U.S. markets. Investor funds were kept in a Goldman Sachs bank account where, despite statements showing consistent trading gains, Price is alleged to have suffered massive trading losses of at least $20 million.
Price also used investor funds to acquire Montgomery Bank & Trust ("MB&T"), a failing South Georgia bank, in order to gain control of millions of dollars of the bank's cash assets and reserves. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Price transferred at least $10 million from the bank to a trading account at Goldman Sachs, and attempted to conceal the fraudulent nature of his activity by providing fictitious account statements and representation letters to bank regulators. In total, Price is accused of embezzling at least $21 million from MB&T.
In June 2012, Price boarded a ferry terminal in Key West, Florida. He left behind a rambling suicide note in which he indicated that he was "incapable of continuing in this life," and that he "created fales statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help." Price repeatedly alluded that he planned to kill himself, and he had not been seen since boarding the ferry.
A routine traffic stop based on suspicion of illegally-tinted windows landed
Price in jail after authorities became suspicious of his story. Authorities discovered that Price fit the description of a "Jason" that rented a house in Ocala, Florida, and a subsequent raid of that house turned up more than 200 marijuana plants. Price was returned to a Statesboro, Georgia jail to await trial on bank fraud charges filed by Georgia federal prosecutors.
After his capture, Price told wild stories about his life on the lam, claiming that he first spent time in an unnamed Latin American country where he was allegedly involved with a shadowy figure named "Pedro." According to Price, "Pedro" on at least one occasion threatened Price that his children's lives were at stake if he did not cooperate. "Pedro" then offered Price a job overseeing his cocaine operation, where Price claimed he became an expert "cocaine taster." After he moved back to North Florida, he soon took over marijuana operations and purported to have spent time in more than twenty "grow houses."
Price then assumed the identity of "Jason," recently-divorced man with a past drug addiction. In return for doing gardening and other yard work, an elderly couple let him stay in a small shed on their land. In that shed, Price began growing marijuana plans - and told acquaintances that his sick uncle lived in the shed and would shoot any intruders.
A hearing will be held in the near future to determine the amount of restitution Price must pay to his victims.