A business pitchman who claimed to have deals with the father of Michael Jackson and came to Spokane in 2007 with promises of turning the Lilac City into a DVD-making giant has died in federal prison. Erick H. Hansen was 62.
Hansen died Dec. 28 while an inmate in the low-security Terminal Island federal prison in San Pedro, California, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. His former attorney, Chris Bugbee, said he was told by family members that Hansen had suffered a stroke in prison and died at a nearby hospital.
Hansen burst onto the business scene in Spokane when he arrived from California and launched BluRay Technologies Inc. in downtown Spokane in 2007. He claimed the manufacturing plant would initially employ up to 20 people and produce 100,000 high-definition Blu-ray discs a day.
In 2008, he formed BlueStar Technologies, housed in the old Commercial Building at 1111 W. First Ave., and said he would launch new production sites outside Washington, including one in England. Those plants were never built.
The company became the subject of several lawsuits and had not produced any discs by May 2009. Two months later, Hansen announced he had forged a partnership with Joe Jackson, father of the late king of pop Michael Jackson, who had recently died.
Joe Jackson, who has also since died, and Hansen could be seen talking during an interview published on YouTube about the Spokane facility, specifically calling it “a great factory” that was built underground to be “environmentally friendly.”
But the FBI raided BlueStar Technologies in 2010, and records seized by federal agents showed that Hansen had collected about $10 million from 175 investors with promises of exclusive entertainment rights and imminent production. But none of them saw the “300 to 500 percent” returns that Hansen promised, according to court records.
A former employee told investigators Hansen would dress up the janitor in a lab coat and have him act as though he were manufacturing discs when potential investors inspected the factory, something Hansen would refer to as “managing the perception,” according to court documents.
That led to a 16-count indictment for wire fraud in 2015. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice later sentenced Hansen to five years in prison in 2016.
Hansen, a former U.S. Marine, was nearing the end of that sentence when he suffered the stroke, said Bugbee, who initially represented Hansen and was later appointed to defend him.
“He was a guy who had big dreams and maybe got a little overzealous in trying to accomplish them,” Bugbee said. “He was almost done. I feel badly that he didn’t get out of prison.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.