JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - -When Richard Sipe saw former investment banker Aubrey Lee Price's mug shot this week, he was stunned.
"I saw the news and I was still thinking, no, this isn't Jason."
Sipe, and his wife Bonnie, met Price through their homeless outreach program in Jacksonville last year. Price introduced himself as "Jason."
"He said he had a nursery business and made it really big and then lost it all, got divorced, and started drinking. He was well-spoken, and a very nice guy, but he was always very sad."
"Jason" was in fact the fugitive Price, who is accused of embezzling $21 million from investors, before disappearing in June 2012.
His story persuaded the Sipes to feel compassion for him, so they offered to let him move into their Marion County property and get back on his feet.
"I said I'll give you free rent to fix the place up and get it going again. He was going to go down there and start a nursery."
Sipes says "Jason" lived rent free for approximately six months, before offering them $500 a month.
"He told us he got a job inspecting groves and that he would be traveling around the first of every month. He offered to stop by our place and drop off the money, and he always paid in cash. He also said he was planting strawberries inside of the garage."
Strawberries are not what the Sipes found, however, when they inspected the property this week after seeing Price's mugshot.
"There was a piece of wood over the window and I pushed it, and all you see is marijuana plants."
The Sipes called police, who discovered a total of 225 plants inside the trailer and detached garage. Sipes says he also found dozens of Bibles laying open on the couch, and paperwork all over the trailer, including a suspicious note on a desk.
"The one paper said, 'how not to get caught,' and listed things like 'stay cautious.'"
While neighbors tell Action News they haven't seen Price in approximately two months, Sipe says the condition of the home indicates he had been there in recent days.
He now wishes he'd known who Price really was, so the fugitive could have been captured sooner.
"This is not something you just wash under the bridge. This is big time."