Man's Yearslong Manure Scam Sends Him to Prison

Ray Brewer, 66, sentenced to 6 years for cow dung-to-green energy scheme
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2023 10:15 AM CDT
Prosecutors: California Man's Manure Plan Was Actually Crap
A line of Holstein dairy cows feed through a fence at a dairy farm outside Jerome, Idaho, on March 11, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)

A California man is going to prison for running a cow dung-to-green energy scheme that authorities say was a load of manure. Ray Brewer, 66, of Porterville was sentenced Monday to six years and nine months in federal prison in a yearslong scam that bilked investors out of $8.75 million, according to a statement from the US attorney's office. Prosecutors said that from 2014 through 2019, Brewer claimed to be building anaerobic digesters at dairies in Idaho and in California's Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties. Anaerobic digesters "use microorganisms to break down biodegradable material and turn it into methane" that can be sold, the statement said.

Brewer told investors he would handle turning cow manure into methane while they would receive 66% of net profits and tax incentives, federal prosecutors said. The AP reports 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 nonexistent 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. The New York Times reports his ruse unraveled in 2019 when some investors learned he was using their money to refund other investors.

story continues below

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. The Times reports his lies continued upon his arrest, per prosecutors, who said Brewer claimed authorities had arrested the wrong man and that he was actually a Navy veteran who had saved soldiers from a fire using his body as a shield. "He is a fraudster through and through," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo, "and needs to be punished harshly to ensure both specific and general deterrence." (Read more manure stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.