Feds accuse Auburn pair of defrauding more than 3,000 of over $25M


SEATTLE -- The former president and the ex-vault manager of Northwest Territorial Mint, a now-bankrupt company once involved in precious metals, have been indicted on 20 federal felonies resulting from what the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle says was a Ponzi-like scheme that defrauded customers of millions of dollars.

Bernard Ross Hansen, 57, and Diane Renee Erdmann, 45, were each charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud. Both are from Auburn

Northwest Territorial Mint had offices in Federal Way and Auburn. It made medallions, coins and other award and ran a bullion business that included selling, buying, exchanging, storing and leasing gold, silver and other precious metals. The company declared bankruptcy on April 1, 2016, prosecutors say.

The indictment accuses the two of defrauding customers between 2009 and 2017.

They are accused of lying about the shipping times for bullion and of using customer money to expand the business and to pay for personal expenses.

Prosecutors say that by 2012 the company didn't have enough assets to fulfill orders and used new customer money to pay off older customers.

More than 3,000 customers paid for orders or made bullion sales or exchanges that were either never fulfilled or never refunded, prosecutors say.

More than 50 people who stored bullion with the company found missing all or part of their bullion, which was worth $4.9 million, the U.S. Attorney Office says. Prosecutors also allege that 20 customers in a bullion-leasing program were defrauded of more than $5 million and that a Canadian maker of silver bullion was defrauded of more than $1 million in silver bullion.

Hansen and Erdmann are accused of taking more than $1 million out of the company for their personal use, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.

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