by WorldTribune Staff, February 27, 2023
A treasure hunter said he is convinced that the FBI stole seven tons of Civil War-era gold in a secretive, late night excavation in Dents Run, Pennsylvania.
Dennis Parada says newly released government records in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in federal court shows the FBI is distorting key evidence and improperly withholding other records in an effort to conceal the recovery of the historic cache of gold.
On March 13, 2018, treasure hunters led FBI agents to Dents Run, about 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, where local lore has it that an 1863 shipment of Union gold was either lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
The feds “followed a well-worn path to the woods of northwestern Pennsylvania, where legendary tales of buried Civil War gold had inspired generations of treasure hunters — including Dennis and Kem Parada,” The Associated Press reported.
The bureau has long insisted its overnight dig came up empty.
A judge overseeing the case must decide whether the FBI will have to release its operational plan for the excavation and other records it has thus far kept secret. The judge could also order the FBI to keep looking for additional materials to turn over to the treasure hunter.
“We feel we were double-crossed and lied to,” Parada told Fortune. “The truth will come out.”
Parada obtained a video and other FBI records through the FOIA lawsuit.
“We’ve identified through our investigation a site that we believe has U.S. property, which includes a significant sum of base metal which is valuable … particularly gold, maybe silver,” an FBI agent whose face is blurred to protect his privacy says on the video.
Calling it a “155-year-old cold case,” Parada said the video shows the FBI had corroborated his information about the location of the reputed gold through “scientific testing.” The agent stresses the test results did not prove the presence of gold and that a dig would help law enforcement “get to the bottom of this story once and for all.”
Parada told Fortune he suspects the bureau conducted a clandestine, overnight dig between the first and second days of the court-authorized excavation, found the gold, and took it away.
“Residents have previously told of hearing a backhoe and jackhammer overnight — when the dig was supposed to have been paused — and seeing a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks,” the Fortune report noted.
The Fortune report notes: “Parada and a consultant, Warren Getler, have focused on a handful of FBI photos and an accompanying photo log that have them questioning the FBI’s official gold dig timeline. At issue is the presence or absence of snow in the images and the timing of a storm that briefly disrupted operations. For example, an FBI image that was supposed to have been taken about an hour after the squall does not show any snow on a large, moss-covered boulder at the dig site. That same boulder is snow-covered in a photo that FBI records indicate was taken the next morning — some 15 hours after the storm.”
Treasure hunters accuse the FBI of altering the sequence of events to conceal an overnight excavation.
“We have compelling evidence a night dig took place, and that the FBI went to some large effort to cover up that night dig,” said Getler, co-author of “Rebel Gold,” a book exploring the possibility of buried Civil War-era caches of gold and silver.
The FBI has denied it conducted an overnight dig.
Other seeming anomalies in the records, according to Finders Keepers’ legal motion, include:
• The FBI initially turned over hundreds of photos, but rendered them in low-resolution, high-contrast black-and-white, making it impossible to tell the time of day they were taken or even, in some cases, what they show. The treasure hunters went back and requested several dozen of the photos in color, which the FBI provided.
• The bureau did not provide any video of the second and final day of the dig. Nor did it produce any photos or video showing what the FBI’s own hand-drawn map described as a 30-foot-long, 12-foot-deep trench — which the treasure hunters claim could have only been dug overnight. Government lawyers acknowledged these gaps in the photo and video record but did not elaborate in a court filing.
• The consulting firm hired by the FBI to assess the possibility of gold produced a report on its findings, but the version given to the treasure hunters seems to be missing key pages.
• The FBI did not provide any of its agents’ travel and expense invoices, which could shed further light on the dig timeline.
The records released so far “cast doubt on the FBI’s claim to have found nothing and raise serious and troubling questions about the FBI’s conduct during the dig and in this litigation, where it has gone to great lengths to distort critical evidence,” Anne Weismann, a lawyer for Finders Keepers, wrote in a legal filing that seeks records, including the FBI’s operational plan, that she says were improperly withheld.
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