The smiling well-dressed business man certainly looked the part. He was a minister, the director of a bank and trusted by many right until they say he took off with their life savings.
“She told me I’ve got some terrible, terrible, news. The whole bottom fell out,” one investor who Team 6 Investigators is calling “Mike.”
Investors certainly hope the public has seen Aubrey Lee Price. He wrote a suicide note and was last spotted in South Florida. Then he simply disappeared _ just like the millions he allegedly stole. Is he dead, or alive?
“There is video pictures of him getting on the boat but not getting off,” said Melanie Damian, esq.
She is the receiver in the bankruptcy case concerning Price and his failed bank. Surveillance video shows Price in Key West at the airport and ferry terminal shortly before his disappearance. The FBI says he purchased a ticket for a ferry ride from Key West to Fort Myers.
“When and if they catch him, we’d like to get some of our money back, “ Mike said.
Mike and his wife Alice asked NBC 6 to conceal their identity. They say Price took $200,000 _ a good chunk of their hard earned money _ and vanished.
Mike said: “We got the suicide note, but we don’t have the body.”
Did this mystery man perish at sea? In the same month he went to the Key West Ferry Terminal, federal court documents obtained by NBC 6 show that Price wrote: “ I realize that time is up. I am … incapable of continuing in this life. There is sadness in leaving this world, but i must painfully.”
“He was also photographed buying weights in Key West to help him sink," Damian said."We think the sole purpose was to commit suicide or to make it look like he was committing suicide."
Alice said: “I think he’s still alive, and he’s in South America.”
New York FBI agent Douglas Leff told NBC 6: “He promised them he would put their investments in conservative safe locations and instead he put them in risky situations, which he probably he subjectively believed would make them more money. Unfortunately it became their worst nightmares because the gambles he took didn’t pay off, and they all tanked.”
Finding out exactly what happened to Price is a priority for the FBI., the bankruptcy court, and 150 families scattered acros Florida and Georgia. The total losses are about $40 million. Many people who invested are too embarrassed to allow their names to be published. One woman said that after her savings disappeared: “my entire life came to a halt.”
The woman said she could no longer remain in her home she moved to Deland, a small community in central Florida. She said she now has to live with her daughter and has picked up a part time job to make ends meet.
“We feel worse for the older people who invested their entire retirement money and are really in a bad way, “ Alice said.
Price has been indicted for securities and wire fraud for his alleged actions at a bank in a Georgia town and on Wall Street. Investigators say he used of all things, his work before as a pastor to attract investors.
“Certainly it fooled us. We heard about and it and we said yea this is a guy who will do right by our money," Mike said.
Leff believes Price was a very convincing man.
“He has a background as a minister, and he’s very good at earning people’s trust. Unfortunately, he lied about the way he was going to protect their investments. He sent them print outs of statements showing funds were present in accounts that they were never in and the statement was signed by an individual purporting to be an officer of that institution who never existed,” Leff said.
Damian, who is trying to get the victims' money back, said Price bought Florida condos, commercial buildings and farms in Venuzeula.
“ He may have been making some plans to escape quite a while,” Mike said.
The FBI said Price had access to a list of vessels and could travel to South and Central America.
According to the state, he is dead, but the FBI has a $20,000 reward for any information that leading to his arrest. Click here to see the FBI flyer.