Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
A nationwide search continues for an investment advisor with Lowndes County connections who is suspected of embezzling approximately $40 million.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday that it has obtained a court order freezing the assets of Aubrey Lee Price, 46, who has allegedly gone into hiding. He reportedly moved recently from Manatee County, Fla., to Lowndes County.
“The SEC alleges that Aubrey Lee Price raised money from more than 100 investors living primarily in Georgia and Florida by selling shares in an unregistered investment fund (PFG) that he managed,” the SEC Litigation Release stated.
Price purported to invest fund assets in traditional marketable securities but also made liquid investments in South American real estate and a troubled Georgia bank, according to the SEC.
“In order to conceal mounting losses of investor funds, Price created bogus account statements with false account balances and returns that were provided to investors and bank regulators,” the release continued.
Price has been missing since June 16. He was last seen aboard a ferry sailing from Key West, Fla., to Fort Myers, according to various media reports. Price’s possible whereabouts have also been linked to Venezuela.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office stated that Price told his wife, Rebekah L. Price, that he was going to Guatemala on a business trip, according to sources.
Several media sources have reported that on June 18, Price’s wife and various acquaintances received a letter explaining his actions. Media have reported that the letter states intentions of suicide, and one report was as specific as stating that Price was going to jump off the ferry in Florida.
The Times’ newsroom has even received calls this week asking for information about Price as he was thought to have committed suicide in Key West, but no reports locally or in Key West could be located to support that belief.
Other media reports stated that the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for missing funds wired through a New York City bank and is not convinced that Price has committed suicide.
In addition, the SEC reported that Price sent a 22-page letter titled “Confidential Confession For Regulators — PFG, LLC, and PFGBI, LLC Summary” to individuals. In the letter, Price admits that he “falsified statements with false returns” in order to conceal between $20 million and $23 million in investor losses.
It is alleged that these activities began in 2008, according to Tuesday’s Litigation Release from the SEC. The objective was to achieve positive total returns with low volatility by investing in a variety of opportunities, including equity securities traded on U.S. markets.
“A significant portion of PFG investor funds — approximately $36.9 million — was placed in a securities trading account at a broker-dealer,” the release stated. “The trading account suffered massive trading losses and money was frequently wire-trasnferred to PFG’s operating bank account.”
Throughout this time, Price was providing account statements to clients that he reportedly falsified and altered to indicate fictitious amounts of assets and investment returns, according to documents.
In late 2010, some of Price’s investors put at least $10 million into MB&T, a small bank in Ailey — about 170 miles southeast of Atlanta — that was listed in December 2010 as the state’s most troubled institution, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Price is listed on the bank’s website as a director and after locals contributed an additional $4 million, the investment was hailed as a success and was even highlighted in a front page article in the AJC in January 2011.
The SEC now knows that the investment was worthless as the assets have been depleted and most of its reserves were lost in trading.
Locally, according to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority online deed records, Price purchased a home in Stone Creek at 4616 Rainwood Circle for $242,000 on May 24 of this year. Price received a 95 percent, 30-year mortgage from Americasave Mortgage Corporation for $229,900, according to the Lowndes County Deed Book. Records show that on June 7, Price deeded the title from himself individually to his wife, Rebekah, as “Joint Tenants with the Right of Survivorship,” meaning if one of them was to die, the survivor automatically receives the full interest.
Price’s wife was once a fifth-grade teacher at Fideles — a Christian Paraclete Model School in Forsyth County, according to a school newsletter from December 2007.
Rebekah grew up in Valdosta and married Price, “a financial advisor and ordained minister,” when she was a sophomore in college. They have four children together ranging in age from early teens to college-age adult.
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