Photo: Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office
In less than two months, Wendy Cross watched her $364,000 retirement fund disappear from an account she held at a troubled South Georgia bank. What took Cross years to build was just a sliver of more than $17 million allegedly embezzled by money manager Aubrey Lee Price, according to the FBI.
Federal agents have launched a nationwide manhunt for Price, who’s believed to have faked his own suicide and skipped town with untold sums funneled from brokerage accounts over the course of two years.
“Price became a director of the southern Georgia bank after PFG LLC, a company he controlled, bought a controlling portion of the bank’s stock in December 2010,” the complaint filed by the U.S District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York says.
“Instead of investing the money as promised, Price fraudulently wired the bank’s funds to accounts that he personally controlled at other financial institutions and provided bank management with altered documents to make it appear as if he had invested the bank’s money in Treasury securities.”
In a suicide note obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Price admitted his transgressions, saying he was “100 per cent responsible” for bankrupting his clients.
“I created false financial statements and defrauded investors, regulators, other work associates and bank employees,” Price wrote. He also detailed plans to end his life by jumping from a Fort Meyers, Fla.-bound ferry on June 16.
Sergeant Aaron Pritchett of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office told WCTV several members of Price’s family were sent letters but “that’s when communication stopped.”
Since then, the U.S. Coast Guard has yet to turn up a body, and authorities believe Price’s notes were all bogus. He’s likely keeping a low profile in Venezuela or Guatemala, where he’s believed to own property.
Investigators have asked the public to report any information on his whereabouts to the FBI’s New York office: (212) 384-1000 or [email protected].
If he’s found, Price will face charges of wire fraud and 30 years in prison.
Till then, there will likely be no restitution for alleged victims like Cross, who told the AJC Price wept and promised he’d help her rebuild her funds before his disappearance.
“I don’t believe he’s dead. I believe he planned for this exit,” she said. “That guy was the best actor.”