Facing an extradition request from her home country, Diana Nemes agreed to extradition Monday following a hearing in U.S. District Court at Seattle. A federal judge signed the order her return to Romania, where she and her husband Radu Nemes are accused in an elaborate tax cheat.
Radu Nemes has also agreed to return to Romania and appears ready to fight extradition. The Nemes are accused of conspiring with high-ranking officials in the Romanian government in a profitable tax dodge.
Diana Nemes, a 38-year-old currently pregnant with her third child, and her husband have extensive properties in Yelm - federal investigators now contend they used laundered money to pay for a $3 million log home, and were running a number of shell businesses in Washington. An FBI-led investigation is ongoing into a money-laundering scheme the Nemes and others are suspected of operating in Western Washington. Neither has been charged publicly with any offenses in the United States.
According to court papers, investigators searching the couple's 53-acre Yelm property discovered an underground bunker. Ground-penetrating radar was brought in as agents looked for gold thought to have been buried there.
FBI agents searching the Nemes home found four pistols and two rifles, including an AR-15-style assault rifle, according to prosecutors' statements. Neither Nemes is allowed to possess firearms.
Working with Romanian authorizes, the FBI's Seattle division began investigating the Nemes in 2012 after it was discovered they were living in Yelm.
Anti-corruption officials in Romania contend Radu and Diana Nemes cheated the government out of $68 million in taxes due on nearly 1 million tons of diesel fuel. The couple is alleged to have conspired with high-ranking Romanian finance officials to perpetrate the fraud.
Investigators contend the Nemes laundered the proceeds of the scheme through banks in Dubai and the United States before fleeing Romania. They previously created several businesses in Western Washington, purportedly to aid in money laundering.
The Nemes are alleged to have spent millions in laundered money on construction equipment, gold and real estate, as well as at least one yacht. Writing the court, Diana Nemes' attorney described the purported scheme as a legitimate tax dispute and claimed the money at issue was earned legally.
In a search warrant affidavit, though, a Seattle-based FBI special agent said the couple's finances are "permeated with fraudulent money laundering activity and have been funded primarily, if not exclusively, with the proceeds of their Romanian tax evasion scheme."
Arresting the couple on March 18, FBI agents searched the Vail Road Southeast property, as well as a neighboring property occupied by two associates. Investigators came to believe the couple had buried boxes of gold "liberty" coins on the properties and returned with ground-penetrating radar.
FBI agents in the United States identified several bank accounts apparently controlled by the Nemes, and learned Radu Nemes and a friend frequently traveled with large amounts of cash.
Writing the court, the FBI agent said the Nemes have been traveling the United States, flying first class and staying at luxury hotels. In just more than a year, they spent more than $235,000 at designer boutiques and withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Bank records showed Radu Nemes spent more than $1 million at a Federal Way-based precious metals dealer, buying gold bullion. Investigators believe he bought additional gold from several other coin sellers.
The Nemes appear to have moved their yacht - the Ramaya - to the Americas from the Mediterranean in late 2012. The 70-foot Azimut yacht was sold months later for $2.3 million. According to search warrant affidavits, the Nemes are suspected of paying $2.8 million in laundered money to the construction firm building a log house on the Yelm property.
Agents searching the Nemes' properties seized most of their valuables, including 21 boxes packed with silver coins, more than a dozen cell phones, seven vehicles and a riding lawnmower. Also seized was a large quantity of building materials, including a collection of solar panels apparently for use on the log house.
The Nemes remain jailed. Publicly accessible court records don't show any charges against the 10 men and women living in the United States suspected of assisting them.