A Porterville man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to a nearly $9 million cow manure Ponzi Scheme.
Ray Brewer, 66, faced charges of wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft from an operation where he claimed to turn cow manure into green energy.
The big picture: Brewer stole $8.75 million from investors from 2014-2019 by claiming to build anaerobic digesters on dairies in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties. He also ran the scheme in other counties in California and Idaho.
Go deeper: Anaerobic digesters are large machines that break down biodegradable materials and turn it into methane, which can then be sold on the open market as green energy. The methane also produces Renewable Energy Credits, which companies can purchase to meet green energy requirements and commitments.
The scheme: Brewer would take investors on tours of dairies where he said he would build the digesters. He forged lease agreements with the dairy owners and sent the investors agreements that were forged to appear as though he had obtained millions of dollars in loans to build the digesters and had secured revenue streams.
- After receiving investments, Brewer transferred the funds to other bank accounts and used false descriptions for the transfers.
- Brewer used the investments to purchase two plots of lands that were over 10 acres, a custom-built 3,700 square-foot home and new pickup trucks.
- Brewer told some investors that he would refund some or all of their money, but he would send them money that he received from other investors.
- Once the investors caught on to the Ponzi scheme, Brewer moved to Montana and assumed a new identity before being arrested.
What we’re watching: Brewer’s sentencing is scheduled for June 26. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud conviction. He also faces another 20 year maximum and a $500,000 fine – or twice the amount of money involved – for the money laundering conviction.
- Brewer also faces a mandatory two years in prison for the aggravated identify theft conviction.