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California Man Defrauded $9 Million From Investors in Cow Manure Green Energy Scheme

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A California man was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for running a “green energy” Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of almost $9 million, according to a June 26 press release from the Department of Justice.

Ray Brewer, 66, of Porterville, in California’s Central Valley, defrauded investors of $8,750,000 with farm tours and an elaborately worked plan of fake documents, telling them to invest in his business of turning cow manure into material that can be used for heating.

From 2014 through 2019, Brewer was telling investors that he was building anaerobic digesters on dairy farms in Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties, as well as other counties in California and Idaho.

Anaerobic digesters are large machines that use microorganisms to break down biodegradable material and turn it into methane. The methane can then be sold on the open market as green energy. The methane also produces “renewable energy credits” that companies buy to meet green energy regulation requirements.

“Brewer’s investors were supposed to receive 66 percent of all net profits as well as tax incentives,” according to the press release.

“Brewer took investors on tours of dairies where he said that he was going to build the digesters and sent them forged lease agreements with the dairy owners.”

He also sent them forged bank agreements making it appear he was given loans of millions of dollars to build the digesters. He also sent them fake pictures of the supposed construction of the digesters and forged agreements with multinational companies, misleading them to believe he had big sources of revenue.

fake digesters
A fake picture showing construction of the digesters, which Brewer sent to investors. (U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California)

After Brewer took the money from the investors, he deposited the sums in multiple bank accounts under different names and false descriptions for the transfers. He thus tried to conceal the location, source, and ownership of the money, which was used for personal expenses.

Some of the expenses were more than 20 acres of land, a 3,700 square-foot home, and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks.

Brewer was falsely telling investors that the construction of the digesters was progressing and was sending them false construction schedules, invoices for project-related costs, fake pictures, and other documents.

Brewer was able to refund some investors who asked for their money back by using money from new investors.

When the investors finally realized the fraud, Brewer escaped to Montana under a new identity.

Upon his later arrest, he told a fake story to police, which he has since admitted to be a lie meant to curry favor with them.

“Upon his arrest, Brewer told officers that they had the wrong man. 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.”

Two years ago another man, Jeff Carpoff, “orchestrated the largest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California,” according to his prosecutor.

Carpoff was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money-laundering charges, according to NBC News.

He was the owner of DC Solar, a solar generator manufacturer. The company became attractive to investors as they could gain tax credits from a solar, or renewable energy, generator.

However, Carpoff was giving the money of new investors as investment returns to previous investors.

“At least half of the approximately 17,000 mobile solar generators claimed to have been manufactured by DC Solar did not exist,” according to authorities.

“Jeff Carpoff orchestrated the largest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California,” acting U.S. attorney Phillip Talbert said at the time. “He claimed to be an innovator in alternative energy, but he was really just stealing money from investors and costing the American taxpayer hundreds of millions in tax credits.”

Carpoff had bought a NASCAR team, a minor-league baseball team, international real estate, and collector vehicles, among other expenses.

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