A man who tried to escape FBI agents by traveling across California's largest man-made reservoir was arrested Monday in connection to an alleged $35 million Ponzi scheme he is charged with organizing, according to reports. Matthew Piercey, 44, used an underwater "sea scooter" to travel through frigid waters in Lake Shasta in an attempt to evade law enforcement agents, CBS Sacramento reported.
Piercey used the Yamaha 350Li submersible device, which he traveled on for nearly a half-hour before he was caught on the other end, the outlet reported, CBS Sacramento reported.
Piercey abandoned his pickup truck and jumped into the waters on his device while a police chase ensued throughout Redding. Helicopters kept an eye on Piercey who remained submerged where agents could "only see bubbles" until he resurfaced and was eventually handcuffed.
Joshua Kons, a lawyer who specializes in security fraud says he has never seen such a "brazen attempt to evade authorities," he told Inside Edition Digital.
The motorized scooter can travel as fast as 4 miles per hour and can work as deep as 100 feet below the water's surface.
Piercey was accused in a federal indictment for running the alleged scheme between 2015 until earlier this year through two investment companies he helped run called Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla, according to the justice department.
Piercey and Kenneth Winton, his 67-year-old business partner, together allegedly used investors' money to buy two properties, a houseboat, and to pay off millions in other investments, the justice department said.
Piercey allegedly recruited Winton who, at first, was an investor himself. He was then asked to assist with raising investor funds and then take up management responsibilities at Zolla. From 2018 to 2020 Winton allegedly conspired with Piercey to make "various false and misleading statements to investors including about the success of Zolla's investment strategies" and "the reasons for delays in payments to investors," according to the justice department.
Winton was charged separately with a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
"We're in the early phases of this case so it is difficult to parse out all the facts, but Winton understands this could be a long process," Adam Gasner, Winton's attorney, told Inside Edition Digital. "The facts will certainly become much clearer as the case lends itself to the criminal justice system."
Piercey, on the other hand, is charged with 31 felony counts including wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and witness tampering, according to the New York Times. If convicted, he can face up to 20 years in prison. Piercey is being held without bail at Sacramento County jail as he is considered a flight risk.