US banker who stole millions and vanished was homeless until arrest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 10:44pm

A bank director who embezzled and lost more than US$21 million of investors' funds before vanishing more than 18 months ago was homeless and worked odd jobs before his arrest this week, a US marshal has told a federal judge.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, was arrested on Tuesday by traffic police in Brunswick in the state of Georgia. The judge set a bail hearing for Monday in Savannah, Georgia.

Price disappeared in June 2012 after sending a rambling letter to his family and acquaintances that investigators described as a confession.

The letter said he had lost millions of investors' money and planned to kill himself by jumping from a ferry. A Florida judge declared him dead a year ago, but the FBI believed Price was alive and continued to search for him.

The marshal told Thursday's hearing Price had told authorities he had been working as a "migrant worker", accepting cash for odd jobs.

Price told authorities his family didn't know he was still alive and that he had returned to Georgia to renew the licence on his truck. It wasn't clear where he'd been since fleeing.

Price was indicted in Savannah in July 2012 on charges of taking US$21 million from a small south Georgia bank where he was director. He was also accused of taking many millions more from investors in his money management business.

Price left his home in south Georgia on June 16, 2012, saying he was headed to Guatemala for business. His family and friends then received letters saying he was going to Key West, Florida, to board a ferry headed to Fort Meyers and planned to jump off somewhere along the way.

"My depression and discouragement have driven me to deep anxiety, fear and shame. I am emotionally overwhelmed and incapable of continuing in this life," said a rambling confession letter investigators believe was written by Price. "I created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help."

Credit card records showed he purchased dive weights and a ferry ticket.

The ferry ticket was scanned at the boarding point, and security camera footage released by the FBI about six weeks after his disappearance showed Price at the Key West, Florida, airport and ferry terminal on the day he disappeared.

The US coastguard says Price's disappearance prompted an air search that put rescuers in harm's way unnecessarily and cost the agency US$173,000.