A Northern California man wanted in an alleged Ponzi scheme led federal agents on a car chase and then jumped into Lake Shasta and attempted to flee using an underwater scooter.
Matthew Piercey, 44, was arrested Monday by law enforcement officers who followed his trail of bubbles as he was pulled through the lake by the handheld motorized device, said a news release from the U.S. Attoney’s Office in Sacramento.
Officers had sought to take Piercey into custody near his home in Palo Cedro, a few miles east of Redding. He eluded them, speeding through a residential neighborhood, occasionally going off-road, and then along Interstate 5 to the lake.
He had an underwater scooter, also known as a diver propulsion vehicle: a battery-powered submersible device that can tow a person at 3 or 4 mph. The Yamaha model Piercey used weighs 19 pounds and sells for about $1,200.
He remained in the water for about 25 minutes and was apprehended when he emerged. Paramedics determined he was not suffering from hypothermia, and agents brought him dry clothes they had obtained from his wife, the report said.
The arrest followed a grand jury’s Nov. 12 indictment that charged Piercey with wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and witness tampering. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said he had defrauded investors of about $35 million through his companies Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla.
Charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud was Kenneth Winton, 67, of Oroville, who had initially been an investor and then allegedly began working with Piercey to solicit more investments.
Piercey and Winton used about $8.8 million of the money to pay other investors in a “Ponzi scheme.” Much of the rest they used for “various business and personal expenses, including two residential properties and a houseboat,” the news release said, adding: “Few, if any, liquid assets remain to repay investors.”
Piercey is to appear in court Tuesday and Winton on Thursday.
Piercey faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of at least $250,000 to $500,000 for each count.
Winton faces a penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of at least $250,000.
Source: Orange County Register