Business

January 9, 2014

Banker pleads not guilty to fraud charges

STATESBORO — A former Georgia banker accused of stealing millions from investors before vanishing for 18 months pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal bank fraud charges and agreed to remain jailed without bond pending trial.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, didn’t speak as he sat hunched between his court-appointed lawyer and an attorney who’s a family friend and has agreed to assist with his case for free. Though prosecutors say he misspent, embezzled and lost $21 million, Price was able to show the court that he doesn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer, said U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith.

Authorities say Price faked financial records in an attempt to cover his tracks before he disappeared in June 2012. He sent letters to his family and acquaintances saying he was “incapable of continuing in this life” and other strong hints that he planned to commit suicide. A Florida judge declared Price dead a year ago. Meanwhile, the Montgomery Bank & Trust, a rural bank near Vidalia at which Price served as a director since 2010, closed because its assets and reserves were depleted.

Attorney Duston Tapley Jr., a longtime friend of Price’s family, said after the hearing in Statesboro that he’d always known Price to be a hard worker and a “good guy growing up.”

“The facts of this case are going to be different than the facts in the papers, and in Mr. Price’s favor,” said Tapley, who has asked to assist with Price’s case. His lead attorney, Joshua Lowther, left court without commenting.

Price appeared in court still wearing the dark, shoulder length hair and beard he had on New Year’s Eve when a sheriff’s deputy on Interstate 95 near Brunswick pulled over his truck because he thought its tinted windows were too dark. Price had short, blondish hair and was clean shaven when he vanished a year and a half ago.

Prosecutor Brian Rafferty told the judge Price should be held without bond because his time as a fugitive made him a flight risk. Lowther said Price had no objection to remaining in custody.

Price became director of Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey, Ga., in December 2010 when a company he controlled bought a controlling portion of the bank’s stock, according to a complaint filed in June 2012 in federal court in New York. Price then opened brokerage accounts through a securities clearing and custodial firm in New York and told bank managers he would invest in U.S. Treasury securities.

Instead of investing the bank’s money, authorities say Price wired the funds into accounts he controlled at other financial institutions and provided bank managers with fraudulent documents. Prosecutors have said he raised about $40 million from 115 investors, most of them in Georgia and Florida.

Price moved his wife and children from Bradenton, Fla., to Valdosta in south Georgia just a few weeks before he disappeared. Letters Price sent afterward said he was going to Key West, Fla., to board a ferry headed to Fort Meyers and planned to jump off somewhere along the way to end his life. Credit card records showed he purchased dive weights and a ferry ticket. Price was declared dead at his wife’s request about six months later.

In the rambling letter he left, Price denied stealing any of his clients’ money, saying he lost it all through bad investments. “I created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help,” the letter said.

Following Price’s arrest last week, authorities have said he told them he worked odd jobs and performed migrant labor during his stint as a fugitive. But Florida investigators also suspect he also may have been growing marijuana.  Marion County sheriff’s deputies in Ocala, Fla., found 225 pot plants on New Year’s Day at a home they suspect Price was renting under a false name. The landlord called to report the marijuana and deputies at the home found ID cards with Price’s photo but a different name.

Jimmy Newsome of Statesboro, who says Price is responsible for losing money his daughter-in-law invested to send his granddaughter to college, said he’s not the least bit sorry for Price and feels he should get the maximum penalty. That’s 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the judge.

“I just can’t imagine anybody that would do this to a family, and all the other families involved,” Newsome said after leaving the courthouse.

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Metro Dalton’s unemployment rate up to 8.8 percent in May

    The unemployment rate for Metro Dalton — Whitfield and Murray counties — increased to 8.8 percent in May, up from 8.2 percent in April, the Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday.

    June 26, 2014

  • Powells back open 1 mlh.jpg Town Square Cafe carries on Powell’s tradition

    The sign above the door at 116 W. King St. may be different, but many of the faces inside remain the same.
    Jenny Lynch, owner of the Town Square Cafe, said she has retained many of the staff and even some of the recipes from Powell’s Country Kitchen, which had been a downtown Dalton landmark in the building since 1979.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Region earns ‘manufacturing community’ designation

    Northwest Georgia, including Whitfield and Murray counties, has been chosen as one of 12 regions nationwide that could get federal funds to sustain and expand manufacturing.

    June 1, 2014

  • Siegle, James-ColOR.jpg Synthetic turn pioneer Jim Siegle dies

    He was known as “The Grand Gentleman of Turf.”

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Metro Dalton’s jobless rate falls again

    Metro Dalton’s unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent in April, down from 8.6 percent in March, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

    May 22, 2014

  • Community & Southern Holdings to acquire Alliance National Bank

    Community & Southern Holdings Inc. said Friday it has reached an agreement to acquire Alliance Bancshares Inc. and its subsidiary, Alliance National Bank.

    May 16, 2014

  • Biz expo '14 2 mlh.jpg At energetic expo, local business owners see signs of economic rebound

    “You give it your all.”
    That’s the biggest lesson Hank Fetzer says he learned after he helped start a business last year with his father Stan. But the importance of having drive, something his father taught him, also meant his father was someone he “didn’t see much” growing up.

    May 1, 2014 4 Photos

  • Carolyn Roan: What are you looking for?

    In my last column, I wrote about how important it is to get pre-qualified for a loan before starting a new home search. If you’re a seller you also need to understand the thought processes that buyers go through when they’re choosing a new home.

    April 25, 2014

  • Feds: home health company paying $150M settlement

    Amedisys Inc., a Baton Rouge-based home health company with operations in Whitfield and Murray counties, will pay $150 million to resolve allegations that it inflated Medicare billings and had improper financial relationships with referring physicians, the U.S. Department of Justice said this week.

    April 24, 2014

  • Metro Dalton’s unemployment rate declines to 8.6 percent in March

    The Georgia Department of Labor said today that Metro Dalton’s unemployment rate decreased to 8.6 percent in March, down from 9.1 percent in February. The rate was 10.4 percent in March a year ago.

    April 24, 2014