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Fugitive banker accused of faking own death says family didn't know he was alive

Aubrey Price makes an appearance in a Georgia court Thursday after allegedly being on the run from authorities for 18 months.

A former banker accused of faking his own death 18 months ago to cover up the theft of millions of dollars told authorities his family didn't know he was alive and that he had returned to Georgia to renew the tag on his truck.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, was arrested Tuesday during a routine traffic stop in Brunswick, Ga., and appeared in a federal courtroom Thursday morning to hear charges against him. 

Price was captured after more than 18 months on the run when Glynn County sheriff’s deputies stopped him on Interstate 95 in Brunswick on Tuesday and discovered his identity, the FBI said. Heavily tinted windows in a Dodge Ram pickup truck were his downfall, according to the Florida Times-Union.

U.S. District Court Judge James Graham ordered a bond hearing for Price next week in Savannah, Ga., The Associated Press reported. A U.S. marshal told the judge Price said he was homeless and had been working odd jobs to support himself, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Authorities had feared Price had escaped to South America. An FBI spokesman said Price said his family didn't know he was alive, the AP reported.

Price was alleged to have stolen millions in an investment scheme that began in 2009, according to federal court documents. Beginning in January 2011, he moved $21 million from a small bank in southern Georgia, the Montgomery Bank & Trust, to other accounts to hide thefts and losses on investments and trading, the FBI said. The fraud led to the bank's collapse.

Because they were acting in the line of duty, the police officers who found the Georgia banker fugitive won't receive the sizeable reward that had been offered for his capture. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

According to a federal indictment, he was last seen in Key West, Fla., on June 16, 2012, boarding a ferry for Fort Myers, Fla., after hinting at suicide in a rambling letter to family and acquaintances that said he had lost a large amount of money in trading and investments.

The letter attempted to deflect any blame for the losses away from colleagues and family members and included a list of documents, bank accounts and real estate and equipment for authorities to examine in any attempts to recover the money.

"I have broken laws and most importantly, hurt the very people I was entrusted to help," says the letter, which also speaks of months of stress during attempts to cover up the losses and feelings of shame at the result.

The FBI said he had ties to Florida and to Venezuela and Guatemala, and the indictment states that some of the losses occurred on investments in South America, which are also mentioned in the letter.

The scheme allegedly began as early as 2009 through private investment funds that Price controlled, according to a July 2, 2012, Securities and Exchange Commission complaint charging him with four counts of fraud.

A former banker accused of faking his death to cover up the theft of millions of dollars was arrested after a traffic stop in Georgia. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

In 2010, one of Price's investment groups bought into the struggling Georgia bank. As a director of the bank, Price was entrusted with investing its capital and moved $21 million into accounts at two private investment funds to hide losses on securities, options and real estate, according to the federal indictment. He also is accused of providing fake statements to the bank that its money was safely invested.

He was charged in federal court in Georgia with one count of wire fraud on June 28, 2012, and could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, the FBI said.

The Coast Guard complained that it spent more than $173,000 searching for Price in the belief that he had jumped off the ferry.

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