The U.S. District Court in Seattle has sentenced a pair of criminals who defrauded thousands of bullion customers of a total of about 30 million dollars to many years in prison. Previously, the pair had tried to evade conviction by fleeing the city. Now Northwest Territories Mint is history.
Using a Ponzi Scheme to Get Rich
In Anglo-American countries, a certain type of scheme is named after the fraudster Charles Ponzi. It basically means that money paid by new customers is used to pay off old customers – but the basis of such a company is anything but solid. Northwest Territories Mint relied on this scheme in two business fields: investment products and personalized items such as medals as well as safe deposit rentals. It is said that among the medals the company once produced even Medals of Honor, the most prestigious decoration of the United States.
Bernard Ross Hansen, 61, was the company’s President and in charge of sales and production. His girlfriend Diane Renee Erdmann, 49, was the Vault Manager.
The FBI thoroughly investigated the case and proved that Hansen and Erdmann deliberately provided their customers with false information. They used money of new customers to at least partially fulfil the orders of existing customers, while expanding their business to other states.
In this way, a total of 2,500 customers lost money that they thought they had invested in precious metals. The damage amounts to the gigantic sum of 25 million US dollars.
Northwest Territories Mint also rented out a vault to customers. When it was opened by the authorities in the April of 2016, it was empty. The damage totals more than 4.9 million US dollars.
As early as on 1 April 2016, the company, which had offices in Federal Way and Auburn, Washington, declared bankruptcy. Moreover, Hansen and Erdmann are said to have used about 1 million dollars of their customers’ assets for personal purposes between 2012 and 2016.
A Dramatic Escape
The trial in June 2021 stretched over four weeks. A jury found the two defendants guilty of fraud; Hansen of multiple counts, Erdmann of 13 counts. In April 2022 the final sentence was to be announced, but the couple failed to appear. Their names were published on nationwide most-wanted lists and after eleven days the two were found in the small town of Port Hadlock – with three loaded firearms ready to use behind them. This only increased their sentence. On 6 June 2022, the verdict was finally announced: 11 years of prison for Hansen, 5 years for Erdmann.
Judge Jones also ordered Hansen to pay 33.7 million US dollars in restitution; Erdmann to pay 32.1 million US dollars.
Destroyed Lives and Debts Without End
Neither Hansen nor Erdmann are likely to have significant assets to make up for the financial damage they caused. This part of the verdict is primarily of symbolic value. U.S. Attorney Nick Brown commented: “Mr. Hansen and Ms. Erdman defrauded more than 3,000 people of some $30 million – money that represents the victims’ plans and dreams: retirement, college funds, and inheritances. It is heartbreaking to hear how the fraud upended their lives and left them working longer, harder, and in deep stress to try to recover. The impact of this fraud goes beyond the significant dollar figure.”
The website of Northwest Territories Mint still exist, the company is now owned by Ranger Industries.
This video examines a Northwest Territories Mint silver bar and explains how to identify the counterfeit:
Some time ago, gold bars were found that turned out to be made of tungsten.
And at the beginning of 2022, the ACTF drew attention to many coin counterfeits from China.