California man jailed after manure-to-methane scheme revealed as bull
Fraudulent cash cow milked investors for almost $9M
The Eastern District of California has serious beef with a bloke whose cow manure green energy scheme turned out to be udder bull.
Ray Brewer, 66, of Porterville was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison this week after milking investors of $8,750,000.
Between 2014 and 2019, backers were steered into believing Brewer was building anaerobic digesters on multiple dairies in California and Idaho. These machines use microorganisms to break down manure and produce methane, which can then be sold as green energy.
Under a US government scheme, this would also create Renewable Energy Credits (REC), which are often bought by companies in a bid to meet regulatory and contractual requirements. Basically, they pollute and then buy someone else's energy savings to balance the books. Brewer promised investors 66 percent of all net profits as well as tax incentives.
Alas, it was all moo good to be true.
Brewer toured dairies with investors where he claimed he was building digesters and sent them forged lease agreements. He also sent altered loan agreements with banks and fake contracts with corporations that suggested he had multimillion-dollar financing for the scheme. Pictures sent showing the digesters under construction were also cowpie in the sky.
Meanwhile, according to court records, Brewer was making hay with the funding he had fraudulently received, transferring the money to multiple bank accounts under different names, including family members, all the while concealing the location, source, ownership, and control of the funds by using false descriptions of the transfers.
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He didn't do things by calf, buying plots of land 10 or more acres each, a 3,700 square foot custom home, and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks.
In the meantime, investors herd that the digesters were coming along nicely – backed up by yet more fraudulent construction schedules, invoices, power generation reports, RECs, and images.
For the backers who were not amoosed by the wild goose chase, Brewer refunded them in part or totally – but this was cash received from other investors who had not authorized their money to be used this way.
Eventually, participants realized they could smell bull and obtained civil judgments against him. With the steaks now untenably high, Brewer moved to Montana under a new identity.
Investigators ruminating on the case, however, pursued and arrested Brewer, who told another cock and bull story – that they had the wrong man and that he had "been in the Navy and recalled how he once saved several soldiers during a fire by blocking the flames with his body so that they could escape," the US Attorney's Office said.
He later admitted that these were tall tales designed to convince law enforcement to go easy on him.
While the lure of green energy is tempting a new wave of capitalists, we're quite sure these investors will not make the same mis-steak again. ®