Aubrey Lee Price, 48, will be an old man when he is finally released from prison. That is especially fitting since he left so many elderly victims practically penniless. This week Price was sentenced to 30 years in prison for bank fraud.
Price made national news when he wrote to several friends telling them of his planned suicide. The US Coast Guard spent hundreds of hours searching for Price who told friends he was jumping off a ferry in Key West. A year later, Price was arrested by an alert sheriff’s deputy in Georgia. Price tried to use a phony ID during a routine traffic stop.
Prosecutors say that Price orchestrated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded dozens of people, many of whom were senior citizens. He was also charged with bank fraud. Price’s bank fraud was so extensive that it resulted in the collapse of MB&T Bank.
While simultaneously running his Ponzi scheme, Price became a director of MB&T and pledged to help the bank raise capital. Money was raised but was never invested as promised. Instead, Price converted the money to his own use. Unable to meet minimum capital requirements, regulators shut down the bank and turned over its assets to the FDIC.
In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said, “Through a web of lies and deceit, Aubrey Lee Price conned his elderly investors and a federally insured bank of more than $70 million, and then attempted to further his con and avoid accountability by faking his own death. However, his life on the lam ended with a routine traffic stop. Today’s sentence sends a strong message to those who seek to defraud the investing public and our financial institutions that we will pursue them and bring them to justice.”
Savannah Georgia’s U.S. Attorney said that “[f]or his crimes, Price richly deserved the heavy sentence handed down today by the Court.”
The case was investigated by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force as well as the FDIC’s Office of Inspector General. In 2009 the President created the task force and combined FBI and IRS resources with those of other agencies to address the growing problems of financial and bank fraud.
In addition to the 30 year sentence, Price was also ordered to forfeit $51 million. That victory is likely to be hollow for many of his investors, however, as Price is believed to have lost most of the money he stole. Prosecutors believe that he lost much of the money by speculative trading activities.
Running from the feds rarely works. Price was originally charged with just one count of bank fraud. Those charges were increased after he faked his own death. While he was always likely headed to prison, faking his own death made things far worse. In sentencing to him to 30 years, the judge took note of his attempted flight.
Unless Price’s investors were introduced to him through a stockbroker, they will likely not recover much of their investment. Sometimes the bank that held their money could be made responsible for facilitating the Ponzi scheme. That doesn’t work here as the bank itself was the victim of bank fraud and was forced out of business.