Man, who faces decades behind bars if found guilty, dived into freezing lake with a 'sea scooter'
An alleged Ponzi-schemer, who faces charges relating to a $35 million fraud, attempted to escape the clutches of the law by fleeing in an underwater “sea scooter”.
Matthew Piercey, of Pala Cedro, California, has been charged with wire and mail fraud, money laundering and witness tampering. He is accused of raising the money through self-created investment companies Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla, using false and misleading statements about trading algorithms, liquidity of investments and the success of the companies’ trading strategies.
Piercey also allegedly tampered with several witnesses by discouraging them from responding to subpoenas related to the investigation.
According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, when FBI agents tried to arrest him on Monday, he fled in a pickup truck, going off-road twice, only to abandon the car and dive into a “frigid” Lake Shasta with an underwater “sea scooter”.
The “sea scooter”, a Yamaha 350Li submersible device, has a speed of around 4 miles per hour. Piercey stayed under water for 25 minutes until he resurfacing and was led away in handcuffs. A separate report, in The New York Times, said agents were waiting with dry clothes provided by his wife.
Authorities have also separately charged Kenneth Winton, of Oroville, California, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Piercey allegedly first recruited Winton as an investor, then had him assist with recruiting investor funds, and eventually gave Winton managing responsibilities at Zolla.
The pair stand accused of paying back investors around $8.8 million in Ponzi-like payments but of using the rest of the money for business as well as personal expenses, including two residential properties and a houseboat.
Reports said Piercey faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years as well as a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, for each wire fraud and mail fraud count, and a further 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 for each witness tampering count as well as an additional 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater, for each money laundering count.
Winton, meanwhile, faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.