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SEC freezes assets of missing Georgia-based investment adviser

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained a court order to freeze the assets of a Georgia-based investment adviser who has apparently gone into hiding after orchestrating a USD40m investment fraud.

The SEC alleges that Aubrey Lee Price raised money from more than 100 investors living primarily in Georgia and Florida by selling shares in an unregistered investment fund (PFG) that he managed.

Price purported to invest fund assets in traditional marketable securities, but he also made illiquid investments in South America real estate and a troubled South Georgia bank. In order to conceal mounting losses of investor funds, Price created bogus account statements with false account balances and returns that were provided to investors and bank regulators.

“Price raised nearly USD40m from investors and made woeful financial transactions that he hid from them,” says William P. Hicks, associate director of the SEC’s Atlanta regional office. “Now both the money and Price are missing.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Price is believed to be a resident of Lowndes County in Georgia after moving from Manatee County, Florida.

The SEC alleges that Price began his scheme in 2008. According to PFG’s private placement memorandum, the investment objective was to achieve “positive total returns with low volatility” by investing in a variety of opportunities, including equity securities traded on the U.S. markets. A significant portion of PFG investor funds – approximately USD36.9m – was placed in a securities trading account at a broker-dealer. The trading account suffered massive trading losses and money was frequently wire-transferred to PFG’s operating bank account. Throughout the time during which PFG suffered trading losses, client account statements prepared by Price were made available to investors indicating fictitious amounts of assets and investment returns.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Price has sent a letter to some individuals dated June 2012 and titled “Confidential Confession For Regulators – PFG, LLC and PFGBI, LLC Summary.” In the 22-page letter, Price admits that he “falsified statements with false returns” in order to conceal between USD20m and USD23m in investor losses.

The Honorable Timothy C. Batten, Sr. granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and entered an asset freeze for the benefit of investors against Price, PFG, and his affiliated entities.

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