FBI records deepen mystery of Civil War-era gold dig

By Michael Rubinkam | Associated Press

CLEARFIELD, Pa. – The court-ordered release of a trove of government photos, videos, maps and other documents pertaining to the FBI’s secret search for Civil War-era gold has convinced a treasure hunter more than ever of a cover-up – and just as determined to do so prove.

Dennis Parada fought a lawsuit to force the FBI to release records of his dig at Dents Run, Pennsylvania, where local lore says an 1863 shipment of Union gold disappeared en route to the US Mint in Philadelphia. The FBI, who went to Dents Run after sophisticated tests suggested tons of gold may be buried there, has long insisted the dig was empty.

Parada and his advisers, who have spent countless hours poring over the newly released government filings, disagree. They accuse the FBI of distorting key evidence and improperly withholding records in an apparent attempt to cover up the recovery of a historic gold deposit of great value. The FBI is defending its handling of the materials.

Parada’s dispute with the FBI is playing out in federal court, where a judge overseeing the case must decide whether the FBI should release its gold prospecting plan and other records it wants to keep secret. The judge could also order the FBI to continue searching for additional material to turn over to the treasure hunter.

“We feel like we’ve been betrayed and lied to,” Parada said in an interview in his cramped, wood-paneled office, where giant drills and high-end metal detectors compete for space with rusty Civil War-era pickaxes, cannon parts and other odds and ends he has unearthed over the years.

“The truth will come out,” said Parada, co-founder of treasure hunting organization Finders Keepers. Solving the mystery isn’t his only goal – he had hoped to earn a finder’s reward from the potential recovery of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold.

An FBI spokesman declined to answer questions about the agency’s gold digging records or address the cover-up allegations, citing the ongoing litigation. Last year, the FBI released a statement in which it publicly admitted for the first time to prospecting for gold at Dents Run. The statement said the FBI did not find any, adding the agency “continues to unequivocally deny any claims or speculation to the contrary.”

There is little evidence in the historical record of an Army detachment losing a shipment of gold in the Pennsylvania wilderness — 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 fabled Dents Run gold, eventually leading the FBI to a remote wooded area 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, where their instruments reportedly identified a large quantity of metal. The FBI called in a geophysical consultancy whose sensitive equipment found a mass of 7 to 9 tons indicative of gold.

Armed with an arrest warrant, a team of FBI agents came to dig up the slope in March 2018. An FBI videographer was on hand to document this, and once interviewed a Philadelphia-based agent on the FBI’s Art Crime Team, who explained why the FBI was in the woods in one of Pennsylvania’s most sparsely populated counties.

“We have identified through our investigation a site that we believe has US property that contains a significant amount of base metals that are valuable…particularly gold, perhaps silver,” the agent said in the video Face was blurred by FBI protects his privacy.

Calling it a “155-year-old cold case,” he said the FBI had corroborated Parada’s information about the location of the alleged gold through “scientific testing.” 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 FBI records through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in hopes they would help answer unanswered questions about what happened at Dents Run five years ago. Parada was largely kept off the dig site while the FBI went about its business.

He suspects that between the first and second days of the court-sanctioned dig, the agency conducted a clandestine nighttime dig, found the gold, and disposed of it. Residents have previously said they heard a backhoe and a jackhammer overnight, when the excavation should have been halted, and saw a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks. The FBI has denied conducting a nighttime dig.

Parada and a consultant, Warren Getler, have focused on a handful of FBI photos and an accompanying photo log that lead them to question the FBI’s official gold digger timeline. It is about the presence or absence of snow in the images and the timing of a storm that briefly disrupted operations. For example, an FBI image supposedly taken about an hour after the squall showed no snow on a large, moss-covered boulder at the dig site. The same boulder is covered in snow in a photo taken the next morning, about 15 hours after the storm, according to FBI records.

They accuse the FBI of altering the course of events to cover up a nighttime dig.

“We have compelling evidence that a nighttime dig took place and that the FBI went to great lengths to cover up that nighttime dig,” said Getler, co-author of “Rebel Gold,” a book that raises the possibility of a buried civil war investigated. era caches of gold and silver.

According to Finders Keepers’ legal filing, there are other apparent anomalies in the records. Below:

• The FBI initially turned over hundreds of photos, but rendered them in low-resolution, high-contrast black and white, making it impossible to determine the time of day they were taken, or in some cases even what they show. The treasure hunters went back and requested several dozen color photos, which the FBI provided.

• The agency did not provide video from the second and last day of the excavation. Also, no photos or video were produced showing what the FBI’s hand-drawn map describes as a 30-foot-long, 12-foot-deep ditch — which treasure hunters claim could only be dug overnight. Government attorneys acknowledged these gaps in the photo and video records but did not elaborate in a court filing last week.

• The consulting firm hired by the FBI to assess the possibility of gold produced a report of its findings, but the version given to the treasure hunters appears to be missing important pages.

• The FBI did not provide travel and expense reports from its agents, which may provide additional information about the timing of the excavation.

The records released to date “cast doubt on the FBI’s claim of finding nothing and raise serious and troubling questions about the FBI’s conduct during the excavation and in this litigation, where it has expended great effort to uncover critical evidence.” distorting,” Anne Weismann, an attorney for Finders Keepers, wrote in a legal filing searching for records, including the FBI’s operational plan, which she says were wrongly withheld.

The Justice Department failed to address the treasure hunters’ most explosive claims of a possible cover-up in its latest lawsuit. The government instead told a federal judge in Washington, DC that the FBI had fulfilled its legal obligation to the treasure hunters to search for his records of the dig and asked for the case to be dropped.

The judge has yet to decide.

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

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

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/18/fbi-records-deepen-mystery-of-dig-for-civil-war-era-gold-2/ FBI records deepen mystery of Civil War-era gold dig

Grace Reader

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