The alleged ringleader of a Ponzi scheme that solicited $35 million for crypto mining and other investments has been arrested after attempting to flee FBI agents using a “sea scooter.”
Matthew Piercey, the accused operator of two fraudulent firms that solicited tens of millions to ostensibly invest in cryptocurrency mining, life insurance and other assets, has been apprehended by authorities after a failed attempt to escape FBI agents using a sea scooter.
According to Californian media outlet The Sacramento Bee, the 44-year-old Shasta County man evaded agents seeking to arrest him for an hour. He first fled in his truck from his home in Redding, California.
After driving through the town’s residential areas, the suspect veered off-road twice on his way to the Interstate 5 highway before abandoning his vehicle on the edge of Lake Shasta.
Piercey then spent roughly 25 minutes in the lake while being pulled underwater using a sea scooter — a water-propelled device that helps divers move underwater at speeds of up to 4 miles per hour. Unfortunately for him, he was arrested when he emerged from the lake.
Piercey now faces multiple charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and witness-tampering in relation to the operations of his investment firms Family Wealth Legacy LLC and Zolla Financial LLC.
The two firms are believed to have received $35 million from investors since 2015 for “investment products” including cryptocurrency mining schemes, health care investments and securities. The firms targeted wealthy investors, with minimum investments capped at $50,000.
However, Piercey allegedly admitted to an associate that his companies’ “Upvesting Fund” did not exist. Further, the accused Ponzi operator is believed to have little understanding of cryptocurrencies apart from using the term as a buzzword. Joshua Cons, a lawyer representing clients of Family Wealth Legacy, stated:
“I don’t know they knew what they were doing with the crypto.”
Piercey is believed to have spent $2.5 million renovating two homes and on credit card bills. His accused accomplice, Kenneth Winton is also believed to have spent $1 million of the funds on a houseboat.
Prosecutors allege that $8.8 million of the funds raised were provided to previous investors to create the illusion that the funds were generating profits, adding:
“Of the remaining net investment of approximately $26 million, few if any liquid assets remain to repay investors.”
The prosecution also noted that Piercey may face a life sentence if found guilty. The incident underlines how easy it is for even wealthy investors to lose money on nonexistent crypto “investment opportunities.”