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Man gets prison for nearly USD9M phony cow manure-to-green energy investment scheme

FRESNO, CALIFORNIA (AP) – A California man is going to prison for running a cow dung-to-green energy scheme that authorities said was a load of manure.

Ray Brewer, 66, of Porterville was sentenced on Monday to six years and nine months in federal prison in a years-long scam that bilked investors out of USD8.75 million, according to a statement from the United States (US) attorney’s office.

Brewer ran a scheme from 2014 through 2019 in which he claimed to be building anaerobic digesters at dairies in California’s Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties and in Idaho, prosecutors said.

Anaerobic digesters “use microorganisms to break down biodegradable material and turn it into methane” that can be sold and that also provide the producers with renewable energy credits for producing green energy, the statement said.

Brewer told investors he would turn cow manure into methane while they would receive 66 per cent of net profits and tax incentives, federal prosecutors said.

A line of dairy cows feed through a fence in Idaho, United States. PHOTO: AP

Brewer took investors on tours of dairies where he allegedly planned to build the digesters and claimed to have raised millions of dollars for the work. He sent them forged lease agreements with dairy owners, faked loan agreements with banks, phony contracts with multinational companies and bogus pictures of the machines under construction, prosecutors said.

The investors’ money went into several bank accounts, and Brewer spent it on himself, buying up land, a custom home and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks, authorities said.

He also kept his investors up to date on the non-existent construction with fake schedules, invoices, power generation reports and pictures, authorities said.

Brewer also refunded money to some investors, using money obtained from other investors.

When investors found out they had been bilked, some won lawsuits against him. But Brewer moved to Sheridan, Montana, and assumed a new identity before he was finally arrested, the US attorney’s office said.