The Coast Guard and federal prosecutors last week dismissed a charge of sending a false distress signal against a Georgia banker who embezzled tens of millions of dollars before vanishing in Key West in 2011.
Prior to his arrest in Georgia in January, Aubrey Lee Price was last seen June 16, 2012. He was in Key West buying a ticket for a ferry bound for Fort Myers. Before his disappearance, Price reportedly had told some people he planned to jump to his death from a ferry.
The former director of the Montgomery Bank Trust reportedly left a note for friends and family stating he lost a lot of money through financial trading and planned to kill himself in June 2012, according to the FBI.
It is unclear whether he ever actually boarded the ferry in Key West after buying a ticket. What is known is that he was on the lam before being caught and arrested following a traffic stop on Dec. 31, 2013 near Brunswick, Ga.
The Coast Guard said the search for Price's body cost the agency $178,000 as it scrambled multiple aircraft in a search that proved fruitless.
Creating a hoax or making a false distress call is a felony punished by a maximum of six years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine, and reimbursement to the Coast Guard, according to a press release.
Price was indicted on that charge May 30, but he pleaded guilty to three charges in federal court in Georgia earlier this month as part of a plea agreement.
Price faces a maximum of 30 years in prison as part of that agreement, and will pay restitution of up to $51 million.
The charge of making a false distress call in Key West was dropped as part of the agreement, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma.
"It was a comprehensive plea deal that covered the entirety of his actions," Somma said. "It involved federal prosecutors in southern Georgia, New York and the Coast Guard. There were a lot of players involved. Restitution for the search costs was worked into the language of the plea deal."
The bank Price was associated with was closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Group in 2012.