FBI arrests western WA duo who skipped sentencing in $30M gold scheme

SEATTLE (AP) — The FBI has arrested a fugitive Auburn couple who fled before sentencing last month after convictions for operating a Ponzi-like scheme, defrauding thousands of investors out of more than $30 million.

Seattle FBI spokesperson Steve Bernd said Bernard Ross Hansen and partner Diane Renee Erdmann were arrested Tuesday afternoon at a motel near Chimacum on the Olympic Peninsula, The Seattle Times reported.

Bernd said a hotel employee recognized them from photographs that had been published in the media.

Hansen and Erdmann were scheduled to appear April 29 in U.S. District Court after a jury convicted them of mail and wire fraud in a gold bullion scheme through the now-bankrupt Northwest Territorial Mint in Federal Way, that prosecutors say victimized 3,000 investors.

Hansen, president of the mint, was convicted of 14 federal felonies. Erdmann, described in court documents as the mint’s “vault manager,” faced sentencing on 13 counts.

The mint — which made coins and medallions and bought, sold and stored precious metals — by 2012 didn’t have enough assets to cover customer orders, according to the couple’s indictment. Prosecutors allege Hansen and Erdmann started using the investments from new customers to pay money owed to older customers in an illegal scheme.

In a defense sentencing memorandum, Hansen’s defense attorney, Angelo Calfo, argued that Hansen lived a humble lifestyle and was motivated not by greed but by responsibility.