A California Ponzi scheme suspect accused of defrauding investors out of about $35 million tried to elude FBI capture on Monday by entering Lake Shasta with a Yamaha Seascooter, according to McGregor W. Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.
The suspect, Matthew Piercey, 44, of Palo Cedro, California, was arrested after he emerged from the water, Scott said.
“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,” Scott said.
“Piercey abandoned his truck near the edge of Lake Shasta, pulled something out of it, and swam into Lake Shasta,” according to a detention memo filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
He “spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles [and] remained in the frigid water for approximately 25 minutes,” the memo said. “When Piercey finally emerged from the lake, law enforcement discovered that he had a Yamaha 350LI underwater submersible device.”
The arrest came after a grand jury returned an indictment on Nov. 12, alleging Piercey, the founder of investment companies Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla, ran a $35 million fraud scheme. After his arrest, he was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and witness tampering, Scott said. The indictment was unsealed Monday, following his arrest.
Kenneth Winton, 67, of Oroville, California, was charged separately by criminal information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
From about July 2015 through August 2020, Piercey carried out his investment fraud scheme, using Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla to solicit funds from investors using various false and misleading statements, including about trading algorithms, the success of the companies’ investment strategies, and the liquidity of investments, according to the indictment.