Once Presumed Dead, Captured Fugitive Details Life On Lam After Collapse Of $21 Million Ponzi Scheme

With losses mounting daily in my investors’ accounts, I did the unthinkable. I deceitfully devised a plan to use the bank’s securities account, and began trading those funds with hopes of making bigger returns to build the bank’s capital account back up and pay investors back. It was the worst decision of my entire life, and I take responsibility for it. There is no one else to blame for this except me. 
Aubrey Lee Price
An Atlanta magazine has published an intimate look into a Georgia man's 18-month life on the lam after he purportedly committed suicide amid reports his investment venture was a $21 million Ponzi scheme, including revelations that he spent time in an unnamed Latin American country and was involved in a mid-sized cocaine trafficking operation before his arrest this past New Years Eve.  Aubrey Lee Price, 47, disappeared in 2012 after his last whereabouts were traced to a Key West ferry.  After staying on the lam for approximately 18 months, he was arrested following a routine traffic stop earlier this year.  Despite facing two sets of federal criminal charges from Georgia and New York prosecutors, Price recently gave a series of interviews to an Atlanta Magazine journalist.  While lacking a basis for independent verification, Price paints quite a tale with his story.

The Scheme

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.  Price would later use investor funds to purchase an equity ownership interest in a South Georgia bank on the brink of failure.

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. 

The Capture

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.

The Story

In a series of interviews with Atlanta Magazine reporter Charles Bethea, Price first disclosed that he had penned a reflective memoir entitled The Inglorious Fugitive.  (Price further revealed that he had been talking to a book and film agent).   The article covers Price's beginnings, glossing over his former position as a preacher that was later shelved for a new career as a financial planner.  Eventually, Price set off on his own with PFG and, owing partly to his former calling and a client list he had amassed during his association with Smith Barney and Banc of America, was able to quickly convince investors to trust him with tens of millions of dollars.

After disappearing from a Ft Myers-bound ferry, Price disappeared to an unnamed Latin American country, where he recounted his association with a shadowy figure named "Pedro" who, on at least one occasion, allegedly 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 assumed the identity of "Jason," recently-divorced man with a past drug addiction.  In return for doing gardening and other yard work, an elder 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.  

After the traffic stop on New Years Eve landed Price in a Glynn County jail, he allegedly called his father with one request - call a telephone number Price had memorized and deliver the code "666."  According to Price, this was the code for "Pedro's" people that he had been compromised.  Price's father refused.