Western Washington Couple Sentenced to Prison, Ordered to Repay $65M in Gold Scheme


An Auburn couple was sentenced to prison and ordered to repay more than $30 million each in restitution on Monday in federal court for operating a Ponzi-like scheme through the now-bankrupt Northwest Territorial Mint in Federal Way.

The former president of the mint, Bernard Ross Hansen, 61, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $33.7 million in restitution by U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones. Hansen's partner and former manager of the business, Diane Renee Erdmann, 49, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $32.1 million in restitution.

The couple were convicted of defrauding more than 3,000 people out of more than $30 million, according to federal prosecutors.

The two were arrested in May after they fled on the eve of their sentencing on April 29, according to Seattle FBI, which investigated the case. They were found 11 days later at a motel near Chimacum, outside Port Townsend, when a motel employee recognized them from photographs published in the media.

Hansen had been convicted of 14 federal felonies and Erdmann faced sentencing on 13 counts. Federal prosecutors had recommended a more severe sentencing to reflect the manhunt.

The Northwest Territorial Mint, which made coins and medallions and bought, sold and stored precious metals, ran out of assets to cover customer orders by 2012, according to the couple's indictment. Prosecutors said the pair then started using investments from new customers to pay for money owed to older customers.

"Together, Hansen and his co-conspirator Ms. Erdmann stole decades of savings and financial security from thousands of victims who thought they were making safe investments for themselves and their loved ones," Donald Voiret, special agent in charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office, said in a statement Monday.