When Larry Price Jr.'s wife reported him missing in the early morning hours of April 18, the disappearance set off a massive search. Helicopters, canine teams and investigators at the state and federal level scoured the state of Virginia for Price, a 38-year-old Bluefield businessman with ties to the coal, restaurant and motorcycle industries.
It didn't take long to find him. That same night, a driver spotted Price on the side of the road near Gratton, Virginia. When he was taken to the hospital and interviewed by a detective, Price told a terrifying tale of an abduction at gunpoint, according to an FBI affidavit. Two strangers, Price claimed, kidnapped him, held him against his will and stole his keys and 9mm pistol before tossing him out of a van and onto the street where he was found.
FBI agents expressed skepticism, in part because there seemed to be nothing to corroborate the story.
So they questioned him again. This time he came up with a new story, according to the affidavit. Price said the dramatic abduction actually stemmed from his relationship with members of a Pagan motorcycle gang, who drugged and kidnapped him.
Price's stories didn't add up, the FBI felt. Weeks later, federal agents would uncover what they say is the truth: the kidnapping was a lie. "Price was, in fact, consensually with another person during the time period he claimed to be kidnapped," federal authorities said Tuesday. He had run off with his mistress and was staying with her the day he went missing.
Price was taken into federal custody in Virginia last week and charged with "knowingly and willfully" making false statements to authorities. He remains in custody in lieu of a $500 000 bond. His lawyers did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Washington Post. Price has not filed a plea.
The arrest attracted interest on the opposite end of the country. Price, it turns out, owns the largest house ever built in Billings, Montana, a 10-bedroom, three-story mansion and property with a market value of $10.5 million, the Billings Gazette reported, citing the Montana Department of Revenue. The sprawling, 26 000 square-foot house resembles a castle and includes 15 full bathrooms, a $43 000 home theater, an indoor shooting range, two bowling lanes, an eight-car garage, elevators and a total of three swimming pools.
When a builder laid the mansion's foundation in 2014, he described it as a "masterpiece." The Gazette called it a "really, really big house." A city official said he had never seen anything like it. At the time, the family behind the mansion remained anonymous, a mystery to those who drove by the colossal home. And it has never been occupied.
According to The Gazette, Price was buried in debt. He owed $11 million to a Wyoming company called Three Blind Mice, as well as to two Montana doctors and a Billings entrepreneur.
Yet on the day he was found on the side of the road in Bluefield last month, his front jeans pocket was loaded with cash - $3 774.49, according to the affidavit. His white Mercedes with a Montana license plate was found at a nearby park-and-ride lot.
After Price had left the hospital, FBI agents interviewed him and his wife, Amy, in their Bluefield home. Price told the alleged tale that he was kidnapped by a man who wanted to talk about a motorcycle he was selling. The motorcycle owner and another man forced him at gunpoint into a white work van with no windows or seats, he claimed. He said the men forced him to hand over his pistol, his knife and a cellphone, but allowed him to keep a "couple thousand" dollars in his pocket, according to the FBI affidavit.
One of the men, he told agents, put a damp rag on his face, burning his skin and making him feel disoriented. He claimed they made him sit on the floor of the dark van in silence and at one point drove up to Hawg Pit Cycle, a motorcycle shop Price owns in West Virginia. The men may have robbed the store, Price claimed, but said there was no video surveillance system that could have captured the break-in.
But when agents checked, they found there was indeed a security video system at Hawg Pit. The footage showed no sign of any white van, robbery or other disturbance at the business.
"Everything I told you is 100 percent true," Price insisted to authorities, according to the affidavit. He claimed he thought the kidnapping may have been because he owed someone money. Asked to whom he owed money, Price said maybe he should "plead the 5th." Finally, Price admitted he had not told everything. He said he thought it best just to say "that he made it all up, he needed to clear his head, and say he disappeared on his own," a federal agent wrote in the complaint.
The agents had checked his phone and found a "significant amount" of contact with a woman other than his wife on the day he disappeared, according to the affidavit. Price explained the woman managed a restaurant he owned, and denied having an affair.
Price persisted with an alternative story, according to the FBI document.
He claimed the abduction was linked to his friendship with the former president of the West Virginia Pagans, who had asked him for access to coal train information associated with Price's coal business to help them facilitate the transport of methamphetamine. He described a meeting he said took place at a local restaurant with members of the gang, and insisted that he was drugged and taken to an unknown location.
But security footage showed no such meeting, and a screening at the hospital indicated that Price had no drugs in his system, and his alcohol level was less than .01 percent.
The authorities questioned the woman, who said she considered Price a close friend from high school with whom she experienced "occasional intimacy." Since the beginning of this year, she said, the couple had discussed "wanting to disappear."
She told agents they began looking at rental properties in Bluefield, and settled on a place next door to her father's home on Gratton Road. On the night Price vanished, the woman drove to Walmart to buy Red Bull, Coke, chips, socks, underwear, towels and a new cellphone for Price - all things he would need to start his new life with her. She took his old phone and threw it out the window of her car, she told the agents, according to the affidavit.
Investigators later found Price's pistol, knife and phone at the woman's house. The location where Price was found on the side of the road, authorities discovered, was only two miles from the Gratton Road home where he planned to live with the woman.
Oh and that "really, really big house" back in Montana? It was possessed by the attorney for the company to whom Price owed millions of dollars, KTVQ reported. The mansion went on the market Monday. The asking price is $17 million.
Price is awaiting a hearing.
The Washington Post