Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
A suspected Ponzi scheme mastermind attempted to evade federal agents in California this week by submerging himself in a lake for nearly half an hour using an underwater submersible scooter, prosecutors said.
Matthew Piercey, 44, used a Yamaha 350Li to descend to the waters of Lake Shasta in a last-ditch attempt to avoid arrest following a wild chase with FBI agents, according to a detention memorandum obtained by Oxygen.com.
Piercey, who was wanted for allegedly masterminding a $35 million Ponzi scheme, fled in a truck after FBI agents arrived to arrest him on Nov. 16. During the chase, he went off-road twice and eventually abandoned the vehicle on the shoreline of Lake Shasta’s before swimming into the waters clutching a bright red sea scooter.
“When law enforcement agents attempted to arrest Piercey today, he fled from arrest by leading agents on a vehicle chase through residential neighborhoods and then onto the highway before abandoning his vehicle and entering Lake Shasta with an underwater submersible device,” federal prosecutors said. “Law enforcement officers arrested him after he emerged from the lake.”
He remained in the lake for “approximately 25 minutes,” according to court documents.
“Piercey spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles,” the filings stated.
He was apprehended about an hour after entering the lake.
The Yamaha sea scooter he used can reportedly travel at a speed of 3.7 miles per hour, according to the company. The device, which retails for $1,195, can reportedly propel itself to a depth of 130 feet.
Prosecutors described Piercey as a “flight risk” in the documents.
“There are no conditions, or combination of conditions, of release that can assure Piercey’s appearance and eliminate the serious risk that Piercey will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice,” federal prosecutors wrote in court papers.
Medical staff who evaluated Piercey said that he didn’t require hospitalization for hypothermia. He’s been charged with money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, and witness tampering.
Piercey is accused of raking in $35 million through an alleged Ponzi scheme between July 2015 and August 2020, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.
Piercey, who controlled financial firms Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla, used his companies to furnish cash from investors using “false and misleading” statements, prosecutors said. The Palo Cedro man also allegedly bought a houseboat and paid off credit cards and business expenses using investor capital.
“Piercey entered a pattern of paying old investors lulling payments with new investor funds, while making various false and misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions to raise new money and to hide the constant downward financial spiral,” court documents allege.
The financier also allegedly tampered with a number of witnesses by “discouraging” them from responding to grand jury subpoenas. Kenneth Winton, his alleged accomplice, was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Piercey was arraigned on Tuesday. He faces a maximum of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of mail or wire fraud if convicted. It's unclear if he's retained legal representation.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.