A father-son team of treasure hunters has accused the FBI of stealing a cache of gold hidden in a Pennsylvania cave, after the agency applied for a warrant in 2018 to seize it – telling a federal judge they feared the state might take the gold for itself.
The gold, which the FBI said was "stolen during the Civil War," is estimated at "one or more tons." According to the agency it belongs to the US government. A geophysical survey of the area commissioned by the FBI, however, suggested an object with a mass of up to 9 tons and a density consistent with gold was buried at the site.
The father-son team, Dennis and Kem Parada of Finders Keepers think the FBI actually found the gold and are lying about it.
Notably, their attorney says the agency either lied to a federal judge about having video of its secretive 2018 dig for the gold, or illegally destroyed the video to prevent them from gaining access to it, new filings allege. The pair led agents to the remote woodland site in hopes of getting a finder's fee, however the FBI insists they recovered nothing of value, according to AL.com.
According to a 155-year-old legend, around the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army sent a shipment of gold from Wheeling, WV to Philadelphia – which never made it to its destination. The shipment was rumored to have between 26 and 52 gold bars in it, each weighing 50 lbs, valuing the cache at up to $70 million US.
After Finders Keepers began pressing the government for information about the dig, the FBI initially said it could produce 17 relevant video files. Then, without explanation, the FBI reduced that number to four. Last week, under court order, the agency finally revealed what it said were the contents of those four videos — and it turns out all had been provided to the FBI by Finders Keepers co-owner Dennis Parada himself, weeks before the dig, at a time when he was offering his evidence for buried treasure. -AL
The treasure hunters say they have evidence that the FBI indeed shot video of the dig, and are asking for sanctions against the agency.
On Friday, the Paradas entered a hidden trail camera photo into the court record, which appears to show an FBI agent in front of a video camera at the hillside dig site. Other agents can be seen in the background.
The photo "suggests either the FBI has falsely claimed to have no other responsive videotapes or the FBI illegally destroyed responsive videotapes in an effort to circumvent the FOIA’s disclosure requirements," wrote Anne Weismann, who represents Finders Keepers in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government.
Weismann has asked a judge to order the DOJ to pay a portion of the duo's legal fees to compensate for the legal shenanigans, and "covering up the results of its excavation … that highly advanced scientific technology indicated contained multiple tons of gold."
The government’s initial court-ordered release of documents last month included a geophysical survey commissioned by the FBI that suggested an object with a mass of up to 9 tons and a density consistent with gold was buried at the site. The FBI used the consultant’s work to obtain a warrant to seize any gold found at the site at Dent’s Run, about 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, where legend says an 1863 shipment of Union gold was either lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
The agency has adamantly denied it found anything. The treasure hunters say the FBI has consistently stonewalled. -AL
"For the FBI to now say it has no videotapes of the dig strains credulity and takes this whole affair to the next level," said Warren Getler, who has worked closely with Finders Keepers. "We have incontrovertible photographic evidence of them videotaping the dig and interviewing their operational leader at the site. It raises a lot of serious questions."
Finders Keepers also wants to depose three FBI officials, Jacob Archer of the FBI’s art crime team in Philadelphia, who oversaw the dig; the unidentified videographer shown in the trail-cam still; and Michael Seidel, the FBI section chief for records dissemination.
"We want to answer two questions. Did the FBI create videotapes during the excavation? The picture certainly seems to answer that question. And if so, what happened to those videotapes? It seems to me these are the people best situated to have that information," said Weismann in a Monday interview.