Fugitive US bank fraud suspect in custody after traffic arrest

ATLANTA (REUTERS) - A Georgia banker who left a suicide note and vanished after being accused of embezzling US$21 million (S$26.6 million) in investors' funds has been arrested by police 18 months following his disappearance.

Sheriff's deputies captured Aubrey Lee Price, 47, during a traffic stop on Interstate 95 near Brunswick, Georgia, on Tuesday after noticing the windows of his Dodge pickup were tinted too darkly, Glynn County Sheriff E. Neal Jump said.

Price disappeared soon before his indictment on one count of bank fraud in July 2012 and left behind a written confession and a note for family and friends saying he planned to kill himself, authorities said.

When he was discovered earlier this week, he had several identification cards in his truck and failed to say which one correctly identified him, Jump said. "The gentleman's story just didn't add up," the sheriff said.

Price was charged with giving false information and taken to jail, where he told authorities his correct name, Jump said.

At a federal court hearing on Thursday, a US magistrate judge ordered Price to remain in police custody until a detention hearing set for Monday in Savannah, court records showed. A US Marshal told the judge that Price said he was homeless and lived as a migrant worker, accepting cash for odd jobs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Price previously controlled an investment group that put US$10 million into Montgomery Bank & Trust, a small bank in Ailey, Georgia, according to the federal indictment. After being named a bank director, he "fraudulently obtained over US$21 million of MB&T funds, which he then misappropriated, embezzled and lost in speculative trading and other investing,"the indictment said.

In an effort to hide the fraud, Price provided bank officials with fabricated account statements, the indictment said. Regulators later shut down the bank's two branches.

Before his arrest on Tuesday, Price was last seen boarding a ferry in Key West, Florida, in June 2012. Investigators at the time speculated that he either committed suicide or fled to Venezuela.

The FBI had put him on the agency's "Most Wanted" list and continued to search for him.

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