FBI records deepen mystery of Civil War-era gold digging

CLEARFIELD, Pennsylvania –

The court-ordered release of a trove of photos, videos, maps and other government documents involving the FBI’s secret search for Civil War-era gold has one 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 of his dig at Dents Run, Pennsylvania, where local lore says an 1863 shipment of Union gold disappeared on its way to the US Mint. USA in Philadelphia. The FBI, which went to Dents Run after sophisticated tests suggested tons of gold could be buried there, has long insisted the dig turned up empty.

Parada and his advisers, who have spent countless hours poring over newly released government records, believe otherwise. They accuse the FBI of misrepresenting key evidence and improperly withholding records in an apparent effort to conceal the recovery of a highly valuable and historic cache of gold. The FBI defends its handling of the materials.

Parada’s dispute with the FBI is taking place in federal court, where a judge overseeing the case must decide whether the FBI will have to publish its operational plan for gold digging and other records it wants to keep secret. The judge could also order the FBI to keep looking for additional materials to give to the treasure hunter.

“We feel we were betrayed and lied to,” Parada said in an interview in his small, wood-paneled office, where huge drill bits and high-end metal detectors compete for space with rusty, War-era miners’ picks. Civil. cannon parts and other odds and ends that he has dug up over the years.

“The truth will come out,” said Parada, co-founder of the Finders Keepers treasure-hunting team. Solving the mystery isn’t her only goal: she hoped to earn a finder’s fee with the potential recovery of hundreds of millions of dollars in gold.

An FBI spokesman declined to answer questions about the agency’s gold digging records or respond to allegations of a cover-up, citing ongoing litigation. Last year, the FBI issued a statement publicly acknowledging for the first time that it had been panning for gold at Dents Run. The statement said the FBI found none, adding that the agency “continues to unequivocally reject any assertions or speculation to the contrary.”

There is little evidence in the historical record 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 leading the FBI to a remote location in the woods 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, where they say their instruments identified a large amount of metal. The FBI retained a geophysical consulting firm whose sensitive equipment detected a mass of 7 to 9 tons that suggested gold.

Armed with a warrant, a team of FBI agents arrived in March 2018 to dig up the hillside. An FBI videographer was on hand to document it, at one point interviewing a Philadelphia-based agent on the FBI’s art crimes team who explained why the FBI was in the woods of one of Pennsylvania’s least populated counties.

“We have identified through our investigation a site that we believe to be American-owned, which includes a significant amount of base metal that is valuable…particularly gold, perhaps silver,” the agent said in the video, his face blurred by light. FBI to protect his privacy.

Treasure hunter Dennis Parada, owner of Finders Keepers, discusses the 2018 FBI dig for Civil War-era gold in an interview at his office in Clearfield, Pennsylvania on January 6, 2023. Parada is pressing the FBI to release more documents related to the dig, which it suspects found gold but the FBI says found nothing. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

Calling it a “155-year cold case,” he said the FBI had corroborated Parada’s information about the location of the alleged gold through “scientific evidence.” He stressed that the test results did not prove the presence of gold. Only a dig would help law enforcement “get to the bottom of this story once and for all,” the agent said.

Parada obtained the video and other records from the FBI through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, hoping they would help answer lingering questions about what happened at Dents Run five years ago. Parada mostly stayed away from the dig site while the FBI did their work on him.

He suspects the agency conducted a clandestine dig overnight between the first and second days of the court-sanctioned dig, found the gold, and took it away. Residents have previously said they heard a backhoe and jackhammer overnight, when digging was supposed to stop, and saw a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks. The FBI has denied that it conducted an excavation overnight.

Parada and a consultant, Warren Getler, have zeroed in on a handful of FBI photos and an accompanying photo log that has them questioning the FBI’s official gold digging timeline. The problem is the presence or absence of snow in the images and the timing of a storm that briefly interrupted operations. For example, an FBI image that was supposed to have been taken about an hour after the storm 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 indicate was taken the next morning, about 15 hours after the storm.

They accuse the FBI of altering the sequence of events to hide a night dig.

“We have compelling evidence that a night dig took place, and that the FBI went to great lengths to cover up that night dig,” said Getler, co-author of “Rebel Gold,” a book exploring the possibility of war burials. Civil. it was caches of gold and silver.

There are other apparent anomalies in the records, according to the Finders Keepers legal motion. Among them:

  • The FBI initially turned over hundreds of photos, but reproduced 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 returned and requested several dozen color photos, which the FBI provided.
  • The agency did not provide any video of the second and final day of the excavation. He also did not 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 treasure hunters claim could only have been dug overnight. Government lawyers acknowledged these breaches in the photo and video record, but did not elaborate further in a court filing last week.
  • The consultant hired by the FBI to assess the possibility of finding 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 bills, which could shed more light on the dig timeline.

The records released so far “cast into question the FBI’s claim to have found nothing and raise serious and troubling questions about the FBI’s conduct during the excavation and in this litigation, where it has gone to great lengths to distort critical evidence,” Anne Weismann, an attorney with Finders Keepers, wrote in a legal filing seeking records, including the FBI’s operational plan, that she says were improperly withheld.

The Justice Department did not address the most explosive claims by treasure hunters about a possible cover-up in its latest legal filing. Instead, the government told a federal judge in Washington, DC, that the FBI had fulfilled its legal obligation to the treasure hunters to search for their dig records and asked that the case be closed.

The judge has not yet ruled.

Parada said he will keep asking questions until he gets satisfactory answers.

“I’ll stick with it until the end, until I know everything that happened with that gold,” he said. “How much, where did he go, who has it now. I have to know.”

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