published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal suspends gas tax increase — and more Chattanooga region news

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal suspends gas tax increase

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed an executive order preventing a hike in state taxes on gasoline.

Deal said in a statement Tuesday the tax increase scheduled to go into effect July 1 is being suspended to eliminate financial burdens on Georgia taxpayers and businesses. He signed the order suspending the increase Friday.

The Georgia Department of Revenue sets the state's motor fuel tax in January and July based on an average of prices. Deal said since January the average price of a gallon of gas has increased by about 45 cents.

The governor has the power to suspend the collection of a tax until the next meeting of the General Assembly.


Hitler billboard to be removed in Alabama

AUBURN, Ala. — The founder of a children's ministry in eastern Alabama says a billboard featuring a quote from Adolf Hitler will be removed.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that the billboard at the Village Mall in Auburn features five smiling children beneath a quote from Hitler: "He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future."

Lamar Advertising officials say the billboard was rented by Opelika, Alabama-based Life Savers Ministries.

Live Savers Ministries founder James Anderegg said the organization is taking down the billboard, and that former U.S. President Herbert Hoover's quote about children being society's most valuable resource would have been a better choice.


Missing banker takes plea deal

STATESBORO, Ga. — A former Southeast Georgia banker accused of embezzling and losing $21 million of investors' money, then vanishing for 18 months before he was arrested in a traffic stop, has agreed to a plea deal, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Aubrey Lee Price, 47, of Valdosta, left suicide letters when he went missing in June 2012 and was later declared dead by a Florida judge. His time as a fugitive ended on New Year's Eve when a sheriff's deputy in coastal Georgia pulled over a pickup truck and found Price behind the wheel, alive and well.

Price has been jailed in Statesboro since then and was scheduled to stand trial June 23 in U.S. District Court on bank fraud charges. But during a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, prosecutors told a judge that Price has agreed to a plea deal. They expect it to be finalized in court Thursday.

Prosecutors say Price misspent, embezzled and lost $21 million and faked financial records to try to cover his tracks before he disappeared two years ago. He sent letters to his family and acquaintances saying he was "incapable of continuing in this life." The Montgomery Bank & Trust, a rural Southeast Georgia bank at which Price served as a director since 2010, closed a few weeks after Price vanished. Its assets and reserves were depleted.

Instead of investing the bank's money, authorities say, Price wired the funds into accounts he controlled at other financial institutions and provided bank managers with fraudulent documents.

In the rambling letter he left, Price denied stealing his clients' money, saying he lost it all through bad investments. "I created false statements, covered up my losses and deceived and hurt the very people I was trying to help," the letter said.

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