TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pinellas County business owner arrested in 2019 for a Ponzi scheme has been sentenced to serve 17 years in prison and pay over a million dollars in restitution in Pinellas court.

Matthew Preston Taylor, 44 of Madeira Beach, pleaded guilty to five counts of grand theft and one count of failure to comply with escrow requirements for yacht brokers. One of the grand theft counts was against someone 65 years of age or older.

Taylor was first charged in 2019, following an investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Taylor had allegedly used his business, Savage Yachts, LLC to operate a Ponzi scheme, taking money from investors and promising high returns.

Instead, he would take money from boat buyers or other investors and pay back the initial investors, according to previous reports from detectives. The total losses from the Ponzi scheme totaled more than $1.5 million, according to Pinellas County’s Economic Crimes detectives in 2019.

The sheriff’s office investigation started in February 2019, after a victim told deputies he’d sent Taylor $450,000 to buy and repair a yacht in 2018. When the transaction was shown to be fraudulent and the victim did not receive a refund from Taylor, he got the sheriff involved.

After their investigation started, PCSO said three more criminal complaints came in. Each of the victims who reported…

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