In A Plot That Sounds Made Up, Embezzling Ga. Banker Resurfaces

fromWABE

It sounds like a movie: Aubrey Lee Price was by all accounts a successful banker. But then he disappeared after writing a rambling 25-page suicide note. FBI and federal prosecutors said Price embezzled $21 million from his bank. But two days ago he was arrested in Brunswick, Ga., after a traffic stop and appeared in court Thursday.

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It sounds like the perfect script to a Hollywood movie. An investment banker wanted for embezzling tens of millions of dollars disappears and is declared dead. But the saga took a strange new twist this week after a routine traffic stop.

Rose Scott of member station WABE in Atlanta reports.

ROSE SCOTT, BYLINE: It was the dark tint on Aubrey Lee Price's 2001 Dodge Ram pickup truck that sparked suspicion.

E. NEAL JUMP: Once we really found the identity of him, it was like, gosh, this is good.

SCOTT: Glynn County, Georgia, Sheriff E. Neal Jump says the 47-year-old Price fessed up and admitted he was a wanted man.

JUMP: Once he got to the jail, he was given the opportunity to come forth one more time with honesty. And at that time, he said, this is who I am.

SCOTT: No one seems to know where the former banker has been hiding for the past 18 months. He vanished in June of 2012. The next month, he was indicted on charges of securities and wire fraud of $21 million from a bank in Ailey, Georgia. Surveillance video showed him in Key West, Florida. Price left a 25-page confession of his financial crimes. He listed clients that he swindled and even left details to assets that could be used to recover money he embezzled.

He mentioned colleagues by name who he said had no idea of his deceit. Although apologetic, Price likened himself to biblical figures such as Sampson, Adam and Eve, and Noah. He wrote, quote, "I pray with my last breath that God would have mercy and grace on the clients that I have hurt." That and other references indicated death by suicide was forthcoming.

A Georgia judge actually declared Price dead. Page Pate, a federal criminal defense attorney, says despite perceived suicidal suggestions, authorities didn't buy that the banker had died.

PAGE PATE: And this has happened in other cases. I mean, we've seen people who were charged crimes who tried to flee and fake their own death pop back up at a later time. And so the FBI was understandably a little skeptical.

SCOTT: When arrested, Aubrey Lee Price's hair was darker, longer and he sported a goatee. That was quite different from earlier pictures of a clean-shaven, suit-wearing investment banker who now sits in a jail cell awaiting the FBI and U.S. Marshals. For NPR News, I'm Rose Scott in Atlanta.

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