Treasure hunters accuse FBI of concealing the recovery of lost civil-war gold bars
(Kitco News) - A century-old mystery regarding lost Civil War gold bullion remains unsolved and a group of treasure hunters is waging a four-year ongoing legal batter to find some answers.
In early 2018, Dennis Parada, owner of a treasure hunting company Finders Keepers, and his son contacted the FBI to inform them that they potentially found a lost shipment of gold, believed to be around 739 troy ounces. According to local lore, the gold went missing in 1863, just before the battle of Gettysburg, and was on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The gold was believed to be lost in the forest near Dents Run, Pennsylvania, about 3 hours northeast of Pittsburg.
It turns out that this was just the start of the mystery for Parada, who has sued the FBI for information regarding their excavation of the area and is accusing the federal authorities of withholding evidence to conceal the recovery of the historic cache of lost gold.
The latest accusations and further legal battle came after the FBI released some government records related to the treasure hunt. According to the documents and a video made by the FBI, sophisticated testing suggested something was buried in the area identified by Parada.
"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," a Philadelphia-based agent on the FBI's art-crime team said. The FBI blurred his face to protect his privacy.
The agent added that the test results did not prove the presence of gold and that the only way to solve this "155-year-old cold case" was to dig.
In 2022, four years after excavating the area, the FBI acknowledged that it was looking for lost gold. The agency added that it did not find anything and it "continues to unequivocally reject any claims or speculation to the contrary."
However, Parada said that he doesn't believe the official statement.
"We feel we were double-crossed and lied to," Parada said in an interview with Associated Press. "The truth will come out."
In the interview, Parada said that he suspects the FBI conducted a clandestine dig overnight between the first and second day of the court-authorized excavation. The gold was then covertly spirited away.
Some residents in the area have come forward to say that they heard loud noises during the night and a convoy of government vehicles and armored cars. However, the FBI said that it did not conduct any overnight dig.
Parada and his team, including Warren Getler, co-author of "Rebel Gold," a book exploring the possibility of buried Civil War-era caches of gold and silver, are using a series of photos provided by the FBI in their current court battle.
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One series of photos Finders Keepers are using to question the FBI's timeline and story relates to the local weather. According to some documents, a snowstorm in March, briefly impacted the excavation. But Parada and his team noted that a photo, supposedly taken about an hour after a snowstorm, shows no snow in the image. Photos of the same area, taken the next morning, 15 hours later, showed snow.
"We have compelling evidence a night dig took place and that the FBI went to some large effort to cover up that night dig," Getler told the AP.
Finders Keepers also noted that the FBI did not provide any video of the second day of the dig, nor did it provide any photos or videos of the 30-foot long, 12-foot deep trench that was dug. According to the AP, Government lawyers acknowledged these gaps in the image and video record but did not elaborate in a court filing last week.
The treasure hunters also said that a report produced by the consulting firm hired by the FBI to assess the possibility of gold in the area seemed to be missing some pages.
Finder's Keepers legal team has filed a request with a judge to ask for the FBI's operational plans that were improperly withheld.
Meanwhile, government lawyers have asked for the case to be closed, saying that the FBI had satisfied its legal obligation to the treasure hunters to search for its records of the dig.
The judge hearing the dispute has not made a ruling.
Along with solving a more than century-old mystery, Parada is also hoping to earn a finders fee for the potential recovery of the gold, which could be worth millions.
At current prices, the metal alone would be worth more than $1.3 million.
While the treasure-hunting group believes that there was gold hidden in the woods, many local historians have said that it is unlikely the stories and legends of lost gold are true.