California man sentenced to over 6 years in prison for $8.7 million cow manure Ponzi scheme

Jul 2, 2023, 7:37 PM

A man was sentenced to over six years in prison for running a multimillion-dollar scheme where he p...

A man was sentenced to over six years in prison for running a multimillion-dollar scheme where he pretended to turn cow manure into green energy, authorities say. (Mieszko9/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

(Mieszko9/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

(CNN) — A man from California who ran a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme where he claimed to turn cow manure into green energy has been sentenced to over six years in prison, the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California announced this week.

Ray Brewer, 66, stole over $8.7 million from investors, court records from between March 2014 and December 2019 showed.

Brewer’s scam involved convincing investors he could build anaerobic digesters – large machines that create methane through microorganisms breaking down biodegradable material – on dairies in several California and Idaho counties, the US attorney’s office said in a news release. This methane can “then be sold on the open market as green energy,” the release stated.

Brewer’s investors were meant to receive tax incentives and 66% of all net profits as part of the scheme, authorities said.

Brewer gave the investors tours of the dairies where he claimed he’d build the digester machines and “sent them forged lease agreements with the dairy owners,” according to the US attorney’s office release.

“He also sent the investors altered agreements with banks that made it appear as though he had obtained millions of dollars in loans to build the digesters,” the release said.

Wanting to appear as though he had secured revenue streams, Brewer also sent investors forged contracts with multinational companies, authorities said, and showed them fake photos of the digesters under construction.

After receiving investors’ funds, authorities said he transferred the money to bank accounts opened in the names of an alias, his relatives and different entities.

In some cases, Brewer offered refunds that came from “newly received money from other investors who had not authorized Brewer to use their money in this way,” the US attorney’s office said.

Brewer assumed a new identity and relocated to Montana after his investors became aware of his fraud, authorities said.

When he was arrested, Brewer attempted to trick authorities by telling him they had the wrong person.

He also told officers stories about being in the Navy and “how he once saved several soldiers during a fire by blocking the flames with his body so that they could escape” – tales he later admitted were lies “meant to curry favor with law enforcement,” the news release stated.

Some of Brewer’s purchases with the stolen money included two plots of land of 10 or more acres, a custom 3,700 square-foot home and new pickup trucks, according to authorities.

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California man sentenced to over 6 years in prison for $8.7 million cow manure Ponzi scheme