No bull, this might be the smelliest Ponzi scheme ever concocted.
Ray Brewer, 66, of Porterville, received a sentence of six years and nine months in prison Monday in Fresno federal court, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced in a news release.
His crime: running a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme where he claimed to turn cow manure into green energy. He pleaded guilty to fraud charges on Feb. 27.
According to court records, from March 2014 through December 2019, Brewer stole $8.75 million from investors by claiming to build anaerobic digesters on dairies in Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties, as well as other counties in California and Idaho.
He then used some of the investors’ money to buy land, a 3,700-square-foot custom home, and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks for himself.
Point of fact: Anaerobic digesters do convert animal waste into energy. Moreover, the federal government has invested millions in the technology.
Lured Investors With Promise of Green Energy Profits
Anaerobic digesters are large machines that use microorganisms to break down biodegradable material and turn it into methane. The methane can be sold as green energy and is eligible for Renewable Energy Credits, which are often purchased by companies to meet green energy mandates. Brewer’s investors were supposed to receive 66% of all net profits as well as tax incentives.
As is always the case in Ponzi schemes, the deal was too good to be true.
Or, as in this case, virtually nothing is true — such as Brewer’s claim to arresting federal agents that he was a life-saving naval hero.
Sent Investors Fake Documents and Pictures
Brewer showed investors the dairies where he claimed his company, CH4 Energy, was building digesters and sent them fake pictures of digesters being built.
He also sent them forged lease agreements and loan documents. The bait swallowed by investors, he set the hook with forged contracts with multinational companies that made it appear he had secured revenue streams.
Moved to Montana, Got a New Identity
When Brewer’s investors realized the fraud and obtained civil judgments against him, he moved to Sheridan, Montana, and assumed a new identity.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph D. Barton, Henry Z. Carbajal III, and Alyson A. Berg prosecuted the case.