Fugitives in $25 million gold bullion, wire fraud case found in Port Hadlock

Posted 5/19/22

A sharp-eyed motel manager helped the FBI capture two fugitives from justice last week in Port Hadlock.

Bernard Ross Hansen, 61, and Diane Renee Erdmann, 49, both of Auburn, were arrested Tuesday, …

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Fugitives in $25 million gold bullion, wire fraud case found in Port Hadlock

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A sharp-eyed motel manager helped the FBI capture two fugitives from justice last week in Port Hadlock.

Bernard Ross Hansen, 61, and Diane Renee Erdmann, 49, both of Auburn, were arrested Tuesday, May 10 and booked into Jefferson County Jail after a worker at the Hadlock Motel recognized the pair from an FBI bulletin that was broadcast on Seattle television news.

Hansen and Erdmann were convicted of mail and wire fraud last July after the pair defrauded customers of Northwest Territorial Mint, a now-defunct bullion business that made medallions and other awards, out of $25 million.

The pair were released after they were convicted but never showed up to court for their sentencing hearing.

According to the FBI, the pair likely fled their Auburn home April 29.

Detective Sergeant Brett Anglin of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was conducting surveillance at the Hadlock Motel with another detective last Tuesday after the hotel manager recognized the couple and their vehicle from TV reports.

The motel worker told authorities the pair had been at the motel for a week and had been paying in cash, said Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole.

Hansen and Erdmann were not known to local authorities and appeared to have no connection to the area.

“We didn’t have anything in our computers for them; we hadn’t contacted them before,” Nole said.

Two detectives from the sheriff’s office were sent to the motel just before 10 a.m. May 10 to watch the premises while FBI agents from Tacoma and Silverdale were called in.

A 2005 Mazda MPV that appeared to match a photo in the FBI’s wanted notice for the couple was found in the motel parking lot.

“We found a vehicle similar to the one reported on the BOLO [be on the lookout], but it had wrong plates on it,” Anglin said.

“The plates were to a completely different vehicle,” he said.

The detectives continued their surveillance, and soon sighted Hansen when he took his dog, a Corgi, out of their motel room for a walk.

Hansen was taken into custody at 12:32 p.m., and Erdmann, a minute later.

“They were both cooperative,” Anglin said.

The Mazda was impounded by the county until the FBI could get a search warrant, Nole said.

An animal control officer was called to retrieve the dog, the sheriff added, but wasn’t needed as the FBI transported the animal to a facility in Maple Valley.

Hansen and Erdmann were temporarily held in the county jail until the FBI retrieved the pair for transit to Seattle, Nole said.

Hansen was the former president and CEO of Northwest Territorial Mint.

The FBI said the company, which had offices in Auburn and Federal Way but is now bankrupt, was at the center of a Ponzi-like scheme that defrauded customers of millions of dollars.

The pair used money from customers to expand the business into other states as well as to pay for their own personal expenses. Investigators found more than 2,500 customers who never had orders completely filled, at a loss of $25 million.

Fifty customers of the business also thought the business was safely storing their gold, silver, and other precious metals in the company’s vaults. An inventory in April 2016 found bullion was missing for more than 50 customers.

The missing bullion was worth more than $4.9 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington

A jury convicted Hansen of multiple counts of wire and mail fraud after two days of deliberations in July. The jury also convicted Erdmann, who was the vault manager at Northwest Territorial Mint, of 13 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud following the trial.

Each count carried a 20-year sentence in prison. Sentencing for Hansen and Erdmann had been set for
Oct. 29, but the couple never appeared in court.

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