PORTERVILLE – Ray Brewer promised investors he could transform cow manure into green energy using anaerobic digesters; instead, he defrauded investors, purchased properties and a Ram truck, and absconded to Montana where he lived under a false identity.
On June 26, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Brewer, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft charges last February, was sentenced to six years and nine months in federal prison.
Brewer, 66, told investors he would build anaerobic digesters – which use bacteria to break down organic matter – on dairy farms in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties as well as other locations in the state. He said he was also building facilities in Idaho.
Instead of building, Brewer created bogus building plans and other documents. According to the DOJ, Brewer promised investors they would receive 66% of net profits from Renewable Energy Credits (REC). RECs are valuable because companies purchase them and then use them to meet various regulatory requirements regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to receiving money from the sale of RECs, investors would also receive tax incentives.
During the five years he ran the scam, Brewer took in $8.75 million from investors. He forged bank statements, building contracts, construction schedules and invoices to give the appearance his operation was flush with loans from contracts with multiple companies, including multinational operations.
As part of the scam, Brewer, with investors in tow, visited various dairies in California. He presented bogus lease agreements with the dairy owners. Brewer said he would build anaerobic digesters at the dairies. Once operational, the digesters would process cow manure into methane gas.
What Brewer actually did was transfer the money from investors into bank accounts he opened under the names of different companies, family members as well as an alias. He purchased a 3,000 plus square-foot custom home, two large parcels of land and a new pickup truck. According to the DOJ, when Brewer learned that civil actions were pending against him, he fled to Sheridan, Montana and lived under an alias.
Upon his arrest, Brewer told officers they had the wrong man, according to the DOJ. He also claimed to have 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. Brewer has since admitted that these were both lies meant to curry favor with law enforcement.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), anaerobic digestion uses bacteria to break down organic matter such as manure, wastewater biosolids and food wastes. A digester is capable of processing these materials simultaneously. The process produces biogas, which is composed of methane and other gasses, as well as digestates, which have multiple uses, including in fertilizers and organic-rich composts.
Anaerobic digestion is a process through which bacteria break down organic matter – such as animal manure, wastewater biosolids and food wastes – in the absence of oxygen.