US Coins

FBI seeks two former Northwest Territorial Mint officials

The former founder and former vault manager for Northwest Territorial Mint are wanted by federal authorities in the state of Washington after skipping an April 29 sentencing date.

Wanted posters courtesy of the FBI.

The former owner of the now bankrupt Northwest Territorial Mint in Auburn, Washington, and his vault manager and girlfriend, both convicted in 2021 of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud connected with the sale and storage of millions of dollars in gold and silver, went on the run after failing to appear for sentencing April 29 in federal court in Seattle.

Bernard Ross Hansen, 62, and Diane Renee Erdmann, 49, were placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after failing to make their scheduled court appearance.

Hansen, who was convicted July 30, 2021, on 14 felony fraud counts and Erdmann on 13 counts during the same trial, face up to 20 years imprisonment on each count and up to $250,000 in fines on each count.

Northwest Territorial Mint at one time was responsible for the production of the nation’s highest military recognition, the Medal of Honor.

A NWT affiliated company, Medallic Art Company in Dayton, Nevada, for a number of years provided the U.S. Mint with ready-to-strike blanks for the production of American Eagle silver bullion coins. In 2011, Hansen testified by request in Washington, D.C., before a House subcommittee on the American Eagle silver bullion program.

Northwest Territorial Mint operated offices in Federal Way and Auburn, Washington, manufacturing medallions and other awards. The company also ran from Washington state a bullion operation offering the selling, buying, exchanging, storing and leasing of gold, silver and other precious metals.

Northwest Territorial Mint filed for bankruptcy on April 1, 2016. The bankruptcy was filed after Hansen lost a $38.3 million defamation lawsuit in Nevada.

Hansen and Erdmann were indicted April 12, 2018, on federal charges of defrauding multiple customers between 2009 and 2017. The indictment accused the couple of using customer assets to finance expansion of the business and pay for their own personal expenses.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, “By at least 2012, 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, over 3000 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.”

It was also alleged that in April 2016, more than 50 people who stored their bullion in Northwest Territorial Mint’s vaults discovered that all or part of their bullion, worth $4.9 million, was missing; 20 customers involved in a bullion leasing program were also allegedly defrauded of more than $5 million; and a Canadian silver bullion producer was defrauded of more than $1 million in silver bullion.

Between 2012 and 2016, Hansen and Erdmann allegedly took more than $1 million out of the company’s accounts for their own use.

Additionally, the pair is alleged to have transferred approximately $120,000 in cash from the company to Erdmann’s checking account and used $400,000 in company funds to pay their personal credit card bills.

During the NWT bankruptcy, federal authorities determined there was an asset deficit of at least $55 million, of which $8.3 million was missing gold and silver bullion coins and bars the private mint was supposed to be securely storing for its customers.

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