A California man was sentenced Monday to more than six years in prison for running an $8.75 million Ponzi scheme based on a non-existent factory that aimed to make green energy from cow manure, federal prosecutors said. Was.
For five years, Raymond Holcomb Brewer falsely claimed to be an engineer who ran a company that built anaerobic digestion plants that compost manure, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said in a statement Monday. converted into biogas.
Mr Brewer, 66, of Porterville, California, told his investors he was building the plant and would generate millions of dollars in revenue selling the biogas, the statement said. He told investors they would get two-thirds of the profits, plus tax incentives.
“None of that was true,” Philip A. Talbert, the US attorney for the Eastern District of California, wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Mr. Brewer never started construction on a single digester. He just took his investors’ money and ran.”
mr brewer, who pleaded guilty The man, charged with fraud in February, spent the money on a 3,700-square-foot custom home in California, 12 acres of land in Montana and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks, federal prosecutors said.
Anaerobic digesters use bacteria to break down organic matter, producing a gas that consists primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. New York City and other places around the world have turned to the process of generating renewable natural gas to deal with sewage, food scraps and agricultural waste.
Mr. Brewer’s elaborate scheme to pretend to run such a process began in 2014, according to a federal indictment. He conducted affairs primarily through a Wyoming corporation with its principal place of business in California. The company was named CH4 Power after the chemical formula of methane.
Mr. Talbert said Mr. Brewer went to great lengths to convince his investors that his fertilizer project was genuine. Mr. Brewer took them on tours of dairies where he said he was going to build digesters, and gave them bogus lease agreements that he said he had reached with dairy owners throughout California. He obtained stock photos of the digesters and sent them to investors, occasionally altering the images so that they showed construction progress. Court filings show that he drew up a detailed schedule for the project to show alleged progress.
After receiving the money from his investors, Brewer tried to hide it by transferring it to other bank accounts he opened in the names of other business entities, family members and an alias, Mr. Talbert said.
Mr. Brewer’s scheme began to fail in 2019, when some of his investors discovered that he was issuing refunds with money he had received from other investors, even though they had not authorized him to use them that way.
Mr. Talbert said that Mr. Brewer’s investors obtained several civil judgments against him that year. According to the indictment, Mr. Brewer responded by closing CH4 Power, putting his remaining assets in his wife’s name, obtaining fraudulent business loans with stolen investor money, and fleeing to Montana, where he lived part-time.
Still, he continued to engage in fraud, claiming to manufacture more compost-processing through a new company he created with an alias, Mr. Talbert said.
sheriff’s deputies mr brewer arrested in Montana in 2020 and was taken into custody on 24 counts including wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
But Mr. Brewer continued to lie, telling officers that they had the wrong man and that he was a Navy veteran who had once saved several soldiers from a fire by stopping the flames from his body, Mr. Talbert sentenced. Wrote in the memorandum. Mr. Talbert said Mr. Brewer has acknowledged that these lies were to curry favor with law enforcement.
“He is a complete fraud,” Mr. Talbert wrote, “and he needs to be punished harshly to ensure both specific and general deterrence.”
Mr. Talbert said Mr. Brewer was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for the fraudulent scheme, and he was ordered to pay $8.75 million in restitution to victimized investors.