FBI Arrests Ponzi Suspect After Daring Escape On Underwater Scooter

A fleeing Ponzi scheme suspect is now in custody after a daring escape on a submersible scooter from FBI agents, reported CBS Sacramento.

Court documents, filed with the U.S. Attorney's office said Matthew Piercey, 44, a suspect in a $35 million Ponzi scheme, used a Yamaha Seascooter to evade FBI agents under the surface of Lake Shasta in Shasta County, California, after a high-speed car chase through the Redding area on Monday. 

"Piercey spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles. He remained in the frigid water for approximately 25 minutes. When Piercey finally emerged from the lake, law enforcement discovered that he had a Yamaha 350LI underwater submersible device.

"Law enforcement arrested Piercey at that point, approximately an hour after their initial contact in Redding," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hales wrote in the filing. 

Piercery's temporary underwater escape was made possible by a Yamaha 350LI Seascooter, able to travel at 130 feet below the surface for 75 minutes with speeds over 3.7 mph. 

Piercery's Yamaha 350LI Seascooter

Piercey has been indicted for operating an alleged $35 million Ponzi scheme through his Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla investment companies. According to Hales, very little investing was being done by the Ponzi suspect: 

"Piercey often paid off his lines of credit, credit cards, and personal and business expenses with investor funds, and his companies did not generate revenue sufficient to cover overhead and expenses while still paying investors the returns they were promised or otherwise led to expect. 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," he said. 

Piercey has been under the radar of FBI agents for more than a year. Attorney Josh Kons told CBS Sacramento that his clients are victims in the scheme. 

"You know, you never know what is going through someone's mind when they're being pursued by the FBI," Kons said. "And we kept investigating, and all of a sudden today, here he is trying to escape into a lake, using a submersible device."

Court documents revealed, "few if any, liquid assets remain to repay investors." Piercey faces up to 20 years behind bars for the alleged fraud.

According to CNBC who quoted data from the website Ponzitracker earlier this year, Ponzi schemes in 2019 totaled the highest amount since around the Great Recession. These types of schemes tend to unwind at the end of economic cycles. 

Today's virus-induced recession will likely result in even more Ponzi schemes unwinding.