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Victim of Ponzi scheme: I lost everything

7:06 AM, Jul 12, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A Georgia banker who disappeared after writing a suicide letter has been indicted for Bank Fraud by a Federal Grand Jury in Savannah. It's an indication the federal agents searching for him believe he is still alive.

RELATED | $20,000 reward for missing Ga. banker

Aubrey Lee Price is accused of embezzling over $21 million from a bank in middle Georgia and is implicated in stealing more than $40 million from other investors in a Ponzi scheme.

One of those investors is Wendy Cross of Atlanta, who lost her life savings.

"I lost everything that I had worked for since I was about 21 years old," Cross said.

If you are an Atlanta foodie, you might recognize Wendy Cross. She owns a food truck called WOW that is seen regularly at the food truck park on Howell Mill Road. She said owning the truck was a dream of hers that is now deflated.

"My food truck is actually on the market right now," she said. "As much joy as it has brought me to bring that food truck to Atlanta, I don't really have a whole lot of choice right now. I'm broke."

Cross feels like she is the poster child for the victims of the Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Aubrey Lee Price. She called him Lee, because she trusted him with her entire life savings.

"I can't believe I was so wrong about somebody," she said. "I can't believe I misjudged him so badly."

In June, Cross found out the investment statements she received from Price were fraudulent.

"It was all a lie. They were totally doctored," she said. "Every statement that I received I believe was totally fabricated."

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Price raised money from more than 100 investors living primarily in Georgia and Florida by selling shares in an unregistered investment fund called PFG that he managed.

Cross has a copy of a 22-page letter Price sent to associates and friends when he fled in June. In the letter, Price said he planned to kill himself off the coast of Florida by jumping off a ferry boat.

But Cross doesn't think he killed himself: "In my heart of hearts, I believe that he's probably somewhere very, very far away."

She's not alone. The FBI doesn't believe he killed himself either, and the indictment suggests that. Price has property in Venezuela and is known to travel to Guatemala, according to a federal complaint.

Price, originally from Lyons, Ga., was indicted on a charge that he defrauded the Montgomery Bank & Trust in Ailey, Ga., of over $21 million. The bank was closed by Georgia regulators on July 6.

According to the allegations in the indictment, in 2010, an investment group controlled by Price invested approximately $10 million in the failing bank. Price was then made a director of MB&T and put in charge of investing the bank's capital. Over the next 18 months, Price stole, misappropriated and embezzled over $21 million from MB&T, according to the indictment.

Price is charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kgrowson

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