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Feds: Georgia banker missing, so is $17 million

By Nick Valencia, CNN
July 9, 2012 -- Updated 2348 GMT (0748 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Aubrey "Lee" Price is suspected of defrauding more than 100 investors of at least $17 million
  • Price, 46, was last spotted in Key West, Florida, in mid-June
  • Federal investigators believe Price, who owns property abroad, may be on the run
  • He purportedly said in a letter he planned to commit suicide by "jumping off a ferry boat"

Atlanta (CNN) -- A Georgia banker who went missing last month is being sought by federal authorities for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from a south Georgia bank.

Aubrey "Lee" Price, 46, is charged with wire fraud, and is suspected of defrauding more than 100 investors of at least $17 million over the course of two years, a criminal complaint from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York, said.

In late 2010, Price was celebrated by his peers and written up in newspaper articles after a company he controlled bought a controlling portion of the troubled Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey, Georgia. He was supposed to invest the bank's capital. Instead, prosecutors say Price used a New York-based "clearing firm" -- a dummy company set up to hide money -- to cover up fraudulent wire transfers and investments.

Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey -- about 170 miles southeast of Atlanta -- had been in operation for nearly 90 years when it was closed Friday by the state of Georgia, with the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation named as receiver. The FDIC said Ameris Bank in Moultrie, Georgia, would take over operations of Montgomery's accounts and its two branches.

Aubrey \
Aubrey "Lee" Price, 46, is charged with wire fraud, and is suspected of defrauding more than 100 investors.

Price disappeared about two weeks ago after telling his friends he had lost "a large sum of money through his trading activities," the complaint said. The complaint quoted a letter purportedly written by Price in June to acquaintances and business associates. Price indicated he planned to commit suicide off the Florida coast by "jumping off a ferry boat," the complaint said.

But federal investigators, including the FBI, believe Price, who owns property in Venezuela and Guatemala, may be on the run. FBI Special Agent Michael Howard said in the complaint that investigators believe Price "may own a boat that would be large enough to travel to Venezuela from Florida."

Price was last seen in Key West, Florida, in mid-June, and "despite a recent search by the (U.S.) Coast Guard, Price's body has not been recovered," the complaint said.

Prosecutors say airline records indicate Price had returned to the United States from a trip to Venezuela on June 2.

"Certainly we are receiving any information that arrives locally, but any updates or comments would have to come from the U.S. attorney's office in New York," Stephen Emmett with the FBI Atlanta Field Office told CNN on Sunday.

There was no one available for comment in the New York U.S. attorney's office Sunday.

If tried and convicted, Price could face up to 30 years in prison.

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