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Marijuana plants found at home of rogue U.S. banker: police

Marijuana plants found at the rented home of former fugitive Aubrey Lee Price in Marion County, Florida, is shown in this undated handout ph
Marijuana plants found at the rented home of former fugitive Aubrey Lee Price in Marion County, Florida, is shown in this undated handout ph

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - More than 200 marijuana plants were found at the rented Florida home of a former Georgia bank director captured this week after vanishing for 18 months under suspicion of embezzling $21 million, authorities said on Friday.

The Marion County Sheriff's Department discovered the plants on Wednesday at a mobile home rented by Aubrey Lee Price, 47, in Ocala, Florida, less than 80 miles northwest of Orlando, department spokesman James Pogue told Reuters.

A day earlier, Price, a former director of Montgomery Bank & Trust, a small bank in Ailey, Georgia, was arrested near Brunswick, Georgia, when authorities noticed his pickup truck windows appeared to be tinted too darkly to comply with state law.

Price had disappeared more than a year earlier, just before he was indicted in Georgia in July 2012 on one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He left behind a written confession and a note for family and friends saying he planned to kill himself, authorities said.

His wife believed he was dead, her attorney John Holt said on Thursday.

Price had recently been living at the Florida property and the landlord called police after spotting several marijuana plants growing in the garage, according to a police report. A deputy saw several bright lights and "tall green plants" believed to be marijuana in the garage, the report said.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators discovered a total of 225 marijuana plants in the garage and mobile home, the police report said. No charges have yet been filed against Price in connection with the marijuana, Pogue said.

Price, who was charged with giving false identification at the time of his arrest this week, was ordered held in police custody until a detention hearing set for Monday in Savannah, court records showed.

Price previously controlled an investment group that put $10 million into Montgomery Bank & Trust, according to the federal indictment.

After being named a bank director, he "fraudulently obtained over $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. Price was indicted in New York last year on securities and wire fraud charges connected to the scheme.

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.

Last year, his wife asked a Florida judge to declare her husband deceased for estate planning purposes and will now seek to have the declaration set aside, Holt said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andrew Hay)

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