Matthew Piercey, 44, was arrested Monday after a dramatic chase

By Ashley Boucher
November 17, 2020 11:55 PM
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Lake Shasta
| Credit: Getty Images

A man suspected of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme spent nearly half an hour in a cold Northern California lake on Monday in an attempt to avoid authorities.

Matthew Piercey, 44, allegedly led FBI agents on a chase from Redding, California, to Lake Shasta, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hales said in a detention memorandum filed Monday in the Eastern District of California.

In the document, Hales argues that Piercey — charged with witness tampering, wire fraud, mail fraud and concealment money laundering in connection with a $35 million investment fraud scheme — should be denied bail, calling him a "demonstrated flight risk."

According to the document, Piercey allegedly led FBI agents in a vehicle chase after they tried to arrest him on Monday morning in Redding, which is about 160 miles north of Sacramento. The chase "went off-road twice in residential neighborhoods including next to an apartment complex, and then later onto Interstate 5 northbound," Hales said.

Underwater scooter
| Credit: U.S. District Court / Eastern Disrict of Calif.

When he arrived at Lake Shasta, Piercey "abandoned his truck" and then swam into the water with something he had pulled from his truck — which turned out to be a $1,200 underwater scooter.

"Piercey spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles," the document stated. "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."

Piercey stands accused of stealing millions of dollars through his investment company, Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla, through a fraud scheme that ran from 2015 through 2020.

Piercey and his co-defendant, the 67-year-old Kenneth Winton who was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, were indicted by a grand jury last week, the Sacramento Bee reported.

It was unclear whether Piercey has legal representation or if he has entered a plea at this time.