The court-ordered release of a treasure trove of photos, videos, maps and other government documents implicating the FBI’s covert search for Civil War-era gold has a treasure hunter more convinced than ever of a cover-up – and just as determined to prove it.
Dennis Parada fought a legal battle to force the FBI to turn over records from its dig in Dents Run, Pennsylvania, where local lore says an 1863 shipment of Union gold went missing en route to Washington. ‘US Mint in Philadelphia. The FBI, which visited Dents Run after sophisticated tests suggested tons of gold could be buried there, have long insisted the dig was empty.
Parada and his advisers, who have spent countless hours poring over recently released government records, believe otherwise. They accuse the FBI of twisting key evidence and improperly withholding records in an apparent effort to conceal the recovery of an extremely valuable historic gold cache. The FBI defends its handling of the materials.
Parada’s dispute with the FBI unfolds in federal court, where a judge assigned to the case must decide whether the FBI should release its operational plan for the search for gold and other documents it wishes to keep secret. The judge could also order the FBI to continue searching for additional documents to turn over to the treasure hunter.
“We feel like we’ve been double-crossed and lied to,” Parada said in an interview in his cramped, wood-panelled office, where huge drill bits and high-end metal detectors vie for space with rusty miner picks, Civil War-era cannon parts and other odds and ends he unearthed over the years.
“The truth will come out,” said Parada, co-founder of treasure hunter group Finders Keepers. Solving the mystery isn’t his only goal – he had hoped to earn a finder’s fee from the potential recovery of hundreds of millions of dollars in gold.
An FBI spokesperson declined to answer questions about the agency’s gold-hunting records or address the cover-up allegations, citing ongoing litigation. Last year, the FBI issued a statement publicly acknowledging for the first time that it was panning for gold in Dents Run. The statement said the FBI found none, adding that the agency “continues to unequivocally reject any claims or speculation to the contrary.”
There is little evidence in historical records to suggest that an Army detachment lost a shipment of gold in the Pennsylvania desert – possibly the result of an ambush by Confederate sympathizers – but the legend has inspired generations of treasure hunters, including Parada.
He and his son spent years searching for the legendary Dents Run gold, eventually guiding the FBI to a remote wooded site 135 miles northeast of Pittsburgh where they say their instruments identified a large amount of metal. The FBI brought in a geophysical consulting firm whose sensitive equipment detected a 7-9 ton mass resembling gold.
Armed with a warrant, a team of FBI agents came in March 2018 to dig up the hill. An FBI videographer was on hand to document it, at one point interviewing a Philadelphia-based agent from the FBI’s Art Crime Team who explained why the FBI was in the woods of one of the least county people of Pennsylvania.
“We have identified through our investigation a site that we believe belongs to the United States, which includes a significant amount of base metals that have value … in particular gold, possibly silver “, said the agent on the video, his face blurred by the FBI to protect his privacy.
Calling it a “155-year-old cold case”, he said the FBI had corroborated Parada’s information about the location of the reputed gold through “scientific testing”. He pointed out that the test results did not prove the presence of gold. Only a search would help law enforcement “get to the bottom of this story once and for all,” the officer said.
Parada obtained the video and other recordings from the FBI as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, hoping they would help answer lingering questions about what happened in Dents. Run five years ago. Parada was mostly kept away from the dig site while the FBI did their job.
He suspects the agency conducted a clandestine dig overnight between the first and second day of the court-authorized excavation, found the gold and took it away. Residents have previously reported hearing a backhoe and jackhammer overnight – when excavations were supposed to have been halted – and seeing a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks. The FBI denied conducting a search overnight.
Parada and a consultant, Warren Getler, zeroed in on a handful of FBI photos and an accompanying photo log that lead them to question the official timeline of the FBI’s gold digs. The problem is the presence or absence of snow in the footage and the timing of a storm that briefly disrupted operations. For example, an FBI image believed to have been taken about an hour after the burst shows no snow on a large moss-covered rock at the dig site. That same rock is covered in snow in a photo that FBI records say was taken the next morning, about 15 hours after the storm.
They accuse the FBI of altering the sequence of events to conceal a nighttime search.
“We have compelling evidence that a nighttime search took place and that the FBI went to great lengths to cover up this nighttime search,” said Getler, co-author of “Rebel Gold,” a book exploring the possibility of a buried civil war. period caches of gold and silver.
There are other apparent anomalies in the records, according to the Finders Keepers lawsuit. Among them:
- The FBI initially turned over hundreds of photos, but rendered them in low-resolution, high-contrast black-and-white, making it impossible to tell what time they were taken or even, in some cases, what ‘They show. The treasure hunters returned and requested several dozen color photos, which the FBI provided.
- The agency did not provide any video from the second and final day of the excavations. Nor did he produce any photos or videos showing what the FBI’s own hand-drawn map described as a 30-foot-long, 12-foot-deep trench – which treasure hunters say was n could have been dug overnight. Government lawyers acknowledged the flaws in the photo and video recordings, but did not provide details in a court filing last week.
- The consulting firm hired by the FBI to assess the possibility of gold produced a report on its findings, but the version given to treasure hunters appears to be missing key pages.
- The FBI did not provide any of its agents’ travel and expense receipts, which may shed more light on the timing of the searches.
The records released so far “cast doubt on the FBI’s claim that it found nothing and raise serious and troubling questions about the conduct of the FBI during the search and in this litigation, where it found gone to great lengths to misrepresent critical evidence,” Anne Weismann, a lawyer with Finders Keepers, wrote in a legal filing asking for documents, including the FBI’s operational plan, which she says were improperly withheld. .
The Justice Department has not responded to treasure hunters’ most explosive claims about a possible cover-up in its latest legal filing. Instead, the government told a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that the FBI had fulfilled its legal obligation to treasure hunters to search for its excavation recordsand asked for the case to be closed.
The judge has yet to rule.
Parada said he would keep asking questions until he got satisfactory answers.
“I will stick with it until the end, until I know everything that happened to this gold,” he said. “How much, where he went, who has him now. I need to know.”