back to article Alleged Ponzi mastermind on the run from FBI hid in lake with sea-scooter, collared after he surfaced half-hour later

A man accused of stealing $35m from victims of a convoluted algorithm-based Ponzi scheme was collared by FBI agents after he tried to flee using a submersible scooter in a frigid lake. Matthew Piercey, 44, of Palo Cedro, California, was arrested on Monday after he was charged with 31 felony counts, including wire fraud, mail …

  1. David 132 Silver badge

    Liabilities exceeded assets?

    He was, most definitely, underwater.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Liabilities exceeded assets?

      They exceeded his liquid assets anyway...

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "pay back the millions they owe"

    As if that had a chance to happen. They've spent the money, nobody is getting anything back.

    The only money left is in the house and, if he was smart enough to put it in his wife's name (probably not), not even that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "pay back the millions they owe"

      well, he could sell his wife. Or a bridge he owns...

    2. Lee D

      Re: "pay back the millions they owe"

      Doesn't matter whose name it's in if it's the proceeds of crime.

    3. Buzzword

      Re: "pay back the millions they owe"

      The smart move would be to put the millions into BitCoin, encrypt it with a strong password, copy it onto multiple media (USB keys, hard drives, DVD-R discs, whatever), and distribute those media to friends / family / associates. When you get out of prison, go visit all your old friends and see (a) who bothered to keep the device, and (b) who is willing to return it to you for the lowest fee.

      Of course, all this relies on knowing exactly when the cops are coming and having the time to perform all the steps above before you're caught. Most criminals are greedy and prefer to spend the money immediately on tangible goods, rather than invest for the long-term.

      1. Martin Summers

        Re: "pay back the millions they owe"

        You've thought about this haven't you.

  3. steviebuk Silver badge

    Sounds like he was a dick but...

    ...fancy get-aways always facinate me. Shame for him he never had a sub setup. He could of climbed in that and stayed under for a long time with no bubbles. Although, as it's a lake and I assume they saw him go in, he wouldn't of been able to go anywhere. I also assume a mini sub would probably wipe out the $35million

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

      > also assume a mini sub would probably wipe out the $35million

      A rebreather scuba setup doesn't release bubbles, and whilst more expensive (and requiring greater maintenance) than an air tank and regulator, it doesn't cost millions.

      Of course, that's only a part of the getaway plan... you need advance warning to defrost the decoy dummy corpse and dress it in your clothes, then make your way to the underwater entrance of your pre-built hideout.

      1. Mr Sceptical
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

        I can see we share follow the same logic in escape route planning, you've got most of my points too ;-)

        For the corpse, it's probably an advantage if it can be left somewhere it's going to have time to decompose enough to confuse the investigators, so could be left to defrost on it's own. Really though, you need somewhere warm, preferrably with sharks/alligators to take the blame.

        Think I might be watching too many heist movies...

        1. Andy the ex-Brit

          Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

          The 3-d printed copies of your own teeth are a nice final touch.

      2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

        Thank you Dave 126. May we presume the first 125 Daves are to be found at the bottom of a lake somewhere?

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

          > May we presume the first 125 Daves are to be found at the bottom of a lake somewhere?

          Presume away! But do know that there's another numbered Dave (124?) who still posts on here regularly. He must have escaped the maturing vat!

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like he was a dick but...

      More Dukes of Hazzard than KAOS. Did he suppose that once he went in the water, Boss Hogg the Feds would just throw up their hands and say, "well, that's it boys; that goll-dang Duke boy done outsmarted us again."

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Underwater flight risk?

    I hate to say it, but he obviously thought he was a penguin.

  5. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Using shell companies to transfer and obfuscate debt between them masquerading it as profit while abusing fresh income to obfuscate and cover this up? Sounds like he may be more than reaching out to Trump, he could be his chief accountant.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Nah, Trump's setups all look pretty standard.

      If you want to see a _real_ shitshow, though, check out BLM / Black Lives Matter (you know it's originally and still primarily a company, right? Pretends to be a charity but doesn't actually do anything except accept donations and pay dividends.)

      If you've had any exposure to money-laundering or tax-sheltering/income-hiding, you'll recognise its funding structure immediately.

      1. disgruntled yank


        I see a hell of a lot of Black Lives Matter signs, but I doubt I know anyone who has written a check to any such organization.

      2. pxd


        Yeah - I call bullshit on this, too. Meaningful references or take your racist crap elsewhere. pxd

        1. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

          Re: Bollocks

          Commenter might be referring to UKBLM who raised £1.2M on Gofundme, despite there being no associated company, charity, nor anything that actually states what they actually do or will do with this cash they are collecting. Their twitter is nothing but a retweet machine.

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: Bollocks

            Hadn't heard of that one.

            No, I was referring to the original US company. Been around for years ; they just saw a recent opportunity and planted their existing flag front&centre.

            My favourite of the handful of shareholder-directors describes herself as a "Performance Artist" who for years now only puts on about one show a year (free, too). But they all have nice houses and nice lives since they set up the company, so that's nice.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Sounds familiar. I wonder if he ever held a job as a Tax Accountant for Arthur Anderson's?

  6. Mr Sceptical

    Rank amateur...

    Good grief, if your master escape plan involves an underwater getaway (in winter!) then you'd better spend some of your ill-gotten gains on:

    1) A rebreather tank so you don't leave a trail of bubbles (and maybe a faster model submersible?)

    2) A decoy air tank to fake your own drowning

    3) A decoy body (optional) - depends on access to a morgue/corrupt undertaker

    4) A covered location to surface in & second getaway vehicle (the most common one on local roads c.f. Drive, The Sentinel, etc.)

    5) Route to your non-extradition country of choice with home already set up (Heat, etc.)

    Various other steps too, but jeez, if you're going to go to the effort of maintaining a Ponzi scheme, plan the out!

    He'll have plenty of time to do 20/20 hindsight planning in the pokey, I'm sure...

    1. khjohansen

      Re: Rank amateur...

      Pffft - a 007/Thunderball scuba battle is not an option??

      1. sgp

        Re: Rank amateur...

        I read it as "this is the worst Bond villain ever".

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Rank amateur...

      As always, Elon has a better way.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: Rank amateur...

        You mean, he just should have scammed the government instead of private citizens?

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Rank amateur...

          Much more profitable to make donations to politicians and watch the untendered contracts roll in.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That getaway prompted deja vu

    Him "speeding" away at a screaming, er, 3.7mph reminds me of the scene in one of the Despicable Me movies where Dr Nefario leaves on his scooter.

    I'm certain the FBI agents waiting for him to, well, surface must have had a good laugh :).

    1. Francis Boyle

      I on the other hand

      have a nasty feeling that this escapade will become the basis of the climatic scene of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3.

  8. DrXym Silver badge

    If you're going to scam people...

    ...quit while you're ahead and move to somewhere that doesn't have an extradition treaty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you're going to scam people...

      For the record, no extradition treaty it doesn't mean you don't get extradited: it means that decisions are taken ad hoc in an individual basis and without the guarantees that an extradition treaty may confer.

      What you want is citizenship of a country that doesn't extradite its citizens, and move there. Here's the menu, pick one (or more):

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If you're going to scam people...

        Si, ideally, you want do your Ponzi scheme anywhere that's not the USA, then go back to the USA before you get caught?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If you're going to scam people...

          If you're OK with paying tax on your gains…

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A trail of bubbles is a novelty. It doesn't have quite the forensic significance as a trail of footprints but in the circumstances they didn't need that.

  10. StewartWhite

    Learning from the master?

    "... materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, half-truths, and omissions, and the concealment of material facts,” - if any of these are a crime then surely El Trumpo will be doing some serious time in the near future?

    1. Daedalus

      Re: Learning from the master?

      Oh yeah. Watch this space.

  11. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge


    He swindled >$35mil and all he could afford is a puny scooter? Amateur indeed!

  12. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Note to self

    Need to buy:

    □ Faster personal sub

    □ Big enough air tank to reach underwater lair entrance

  13. BebopWeBop

    He should have used a rebreather.....

  14. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    For more entertaining details...

    see Kevin Underhill's piece on Piercey. Underhill has covered a number of unsuccessful (and one successful!) waterborne getaway attempts, and a number of failed Ponzi schemes, so his post is replete with links to other amusing tales of a similar sort.

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