Ponzi Scheme Suspect Tries to Evade FBI Agents on an Underwater ‘Sea Scooter’

Tara C. Mahadevan
·2 min read

A man involved in an alleged $35 million Ponzi scheme was arrested Monday after briefly deceived FBI agents by swimming into California’s Lake Shasta.

The incident took place on Monday when Matthew Piercey spent around 25 minutes underwater in the cold reservoir using an underwater “sea scooter,” or a Yamaha 350Li submersible device, CBS News reports. He was eventually apprehended after resurfacing from the lake.

Earlier that day, agents attempted to arrest Piercey, who took off in a pickup truck and led them on a chase to the lake’s shoreline. “Then, Piercey abandoned his truck near the edge of Lake Shasta, pulled something out of it, and swam into Lake Shasta,” court documents said. “Piercey spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles.” Federal prosecutors also called him a flight risk.

Agents later discovered that he had a sea scooter, which can propel a user underwater at speeds of around four miles per hour. With the Yamaha submersible, users can cruise at depths of 100 feet below the water’s surface.

“You know, you never know what is going through someone's mind when they're being pursued by the FBI,” Attorney Josh Kons told CBS Sacramento. Kons represents Piercey’s alleged victims. “And we kept investigating, and all of a sudden today, here he is trying to escape into a lake, using a submersible device.”

Piercey and his business partner, Kenneth Winton were indicted last week by a grand jury. Piercey has been implicated in swindling investors into giving $35 million to his companies Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla. In exchange, he assured returns using an “Upvesting Fund” that purportedly was an algorithmic trading fund that was known to be successful.

Piercey allegedly told an associate in private that the Upvesting Fund didn’t exist. For Winton’s part, he was initially an investor who later assumed management responsibilities at Zolla. Together, they spent some investor money on personal and business expenses, like purchasing two residential properties and a houseboat. Prosecutors said that little liquid assets are left to repay investors.

Piercey is facing a number of charges, such as wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and witness tampering, while Winton has been hit with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, both men face 20 years in prison and have to hand over hundreds of thousands in fines.

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