US Coins

Documentary to include private mint transgressions

Bernard Ross Hansen’s Northwest Territorial Mint affiliate Medallic Art Company was once a large supplier of silver planchets to the United States Mint for American Eagle bullion coins. Here Hansen testifies in 2011 before a congressional committee on bullion coinage.

Image by Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes.

The former owner and the vault manager for the now-defunct Northwest Territorial Mint in Auburn and Federal Way Washington — who were sentenced to prison in 2022 on multiple federal fraud charges involving tens of millions of dollars — are to be featured in an upcoming segment in a documentary series focusing on the impact such fraud had on the convicted felons’ victims.

Former NWTM owner Bernard Ross Hansen, age 61, is currently serving an 11-year sentence at the medium security Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon. The business’s former vault manager and Hansen’s girlfriend, Diane Renee Erdmann, age 51, received a five-year federal prison sentence and is currently incarcerated at the minimum-security Federal Correctional Facility in Pekin, Illinois.

A jury convicted Hansen in July 2021, after a four-week trial, on 14 counts of wire and mail fraud and Erdmann on 13 counts of mail and wire fraud in the operation of a Ponzi-like scheme that defrauded customers of millions of dollars.

Hansen and Erdmann were convicted of defrauding more than 3,000 customers of more than $30 million — money representing the victims’ plans and dreams for retirement, college funds and inheritances.

As part of their 2022 sentence, Hansen was ordered to pay $33.7 million in restitution, with Erdmann’s restitution ordered at $32.1 million.

NWTM operated both a custom business that manufactured medals and other awards and a bullion business that involved the selling, buying, exchanging, storing and leasing of gold, silver and other precious metals.

At one time, NWTM was a supplier of unstruck silver planchets to the United States Mint to produce American Eagle bullion coins and also executed the production of a Congressional Medal of Honor for one branch of the United States military.

NWTM declared bankruptcy on April 1, 2016.

According to investigative findings presented at trial, Hansen and Erdmann lied about shipping times for bullion, used customer money to expand the business to other states, and to pay their own personal expenses.

The company lacked enough assets to fulfill customer orders and used new customer money to pay off older customers in a Ponzi-like scheme. In total, more than 2,500 customers paid for orders or made bullion sales or exchanges that were either never fulfilled or never refunded. The total loss to these customers was more than $25 million. 

In addition to the bullion customer fraud, the evidence at trial demonstrated that Hansen and Erdmann defrauded customers who paid NWTM to safely and securely store bullion in the NWTM vaults.

Evidence and testimony at trial showed that Hansen and Erdmann used this bullion that was supposed to be in secure storage to fulfill other orders. In April 2016, the NWTM vaults were inventoried and all or part of the stored bullion for more than 50 customers was missing.  The missing bullion was worth more than $4.9 million. 

According to prosecutors, “Mr. Hansen talked [the storage customers] into paying NWTM to steal from them — forking over fees, sometimes thousands of dollars’ worth, to ‘securely’ store their bullion at NWTM, only to have the defendants use the vault as a company piggy bank. Mr. Hansen collected those fees and delivered phony storage account statements in return. But unbeknownst to the storage customers, Mr. Hansen used the storage customers’ bullion as his own — pulling it off the shelf to fulfill other orders, at times even melting down customers’ property to makes something else to ship somewhere else.”

The June 6, 2022, sentencing date was the second scheduled for Hansen and Erdmann, who had fled without attending the first date and remained fugitives for nearly two weeks before their arrest in Port Hadlock, Washington, by authorities.

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