A former Georgia banker accused of faking his own death after swindling investors out of millions of dollars pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court.
Aubrey Lee Price, 47, allegedly embezzled $21 million from the small southern Georgia bank he became director of in 2010. He told bank managers at Montgomery Bank & Trust that he was putting the money in U.S. Treasury securities, when in actuality, it was going to secret accounts, the FBI said.
Price vanished in June 2012 after sending suicidal letters to his family. He was last seen boarding a ferry in Florida, and was believed to have jumped. A judge declared him dead, although the FBI had suspicions.
Eighteen months later on Dec. 31, Price was pulled over by Brunswick, Ga., police because of the tinted windows on his car. After questioning, they realized his identity.
The father of four had ditched his clean-cut image for long, dark hair and a beard. Investigators say he was living in Florida under a false name on what appeared to be a pot farm.
If found guilty on bank fraud, Price faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
An attorney and family friend, Duston Tapley, who appeared on Price’s behalf in court last week, defended the man Wednesday.
He told reporters the facts will ultimately be “much different than what has been reported in the news.”
Meanwhile, several investors who say they lost tens of thousands of dollars in Price’s private investment company also showed up in court for answers. Jimmy Newsome said his daughter-in-law lost much of her savings.
He had one question for the alleged pilferer: “Where is the money?”
NBC News' Lewis Levine contributed to this report.