By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A former director of a small bank in Georgia who was accused of stealing $21 million from investors before disappearing for 18 months pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a fraud charge and was ordered to remain in jail while awaiting trial.
Aubrey Lee Price, 47, left behind a written confession and indicated he planned to kill himself just before he was indicted 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 was arrested on December 31, 2013, during a traffic stop near Brunswick, Georgia. Price also has been indicted in New York on securities and wire fraud charges, said Jim Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney in Savannah.
A judge in federal court in Statesboro, Georgia on Wednesday ordered Price to remain in jail after hearing his not guilty plea. Price's lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Price had controlled an investment group that put $10 million into Montgomery Bank & Trust, a small bank in Ailey, Georgia, that was later shut down by regulators, according to the indictment. It said that Price, after being named a bank director, "misappropriated, embezzled and lost" $21 million in fraudulently obtained bank funds.
A U.S. marshal testified last week that Price said he was homeless and lived as a migrant worker during his time on the run. The day after his arrest, police in Marion County, Florida, said they found more than 200 marijuana plants growing in a home rented by Price.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool)