Treasure hunters who claim the FBI dug up and made off with $500 million of Civil War gold under the cover of darkness want the agency to hand over records they say will prove whether it planned a night dig.
Father and son Dennis and Kem Parada believe they found a burial site halfway up a mountain in western Pennsylvania laden with a shipment of government gold from 1863.
They alerted the FBI in 2018, who commissioned independent testing that indicated the presence of the precious metal.
The agency claims the dig turned out to be a bust, but the Paradas believe the FBI carried on their excavation during the night, before making off with the loot – depriving them of a hefty finders’ fee.
The treasure hunters sued the FBI last year in US District Court in Washington, DC, and forced the release of documents relating to the dig under a Freedom of Information Act request.
But they now allege that the FBI has withheld or ‘doctored’ vital information.
In particular, the claimants are seeking the release of operational records which they believe will show whether the agency planned a night time dig – crucial to their allegation that this is when agents snuck off with the horde.
The detectorists also say operation photographs released by the FBI do not contain timestamps, despite the camera used taking them automatically.
Warren Getler, co-author of ‘Rebel Gold’ and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, who began working with the Paradas in 2017, told DailyMail.com that the ‘absence of timestamps goes directly to the question of a deliberate coverup of nighttime activity’.
Dennis Parada, 70, was first alerted to the possible presence of Civil War gold in the area when reading an article in Treasure magazine in 1974.
The story revealed a Union caravan with gold bars in false bottoms headed to the US Mint in Philadelphia had been ambushed in Elk County.
In 2004, Parada found a cave in Dents Run after a washout exposed an opening in the side of a mountain.
He says he has since visited the cave more than 400 times and has found a bullet shell, whiskey bottle and bones scattered nearby that date to the 19th century.
Gelter then set up a meeting with the FBI after radar technology suggested gold was buried there.
The agency commissioned an independent firm to carry out its own tests, which also indicated a large quantity of the precious metal could be found.
Images released of the dig site by the FBI last year fueled further speculation over what had or hadn’t been found in the search for the lost Union treasure
The FBI brought more than 50 agents and dug down 12 feet, but the dig was a bust, or so it has claimed.
A local town official has said she saw lights and heard agents working late at night, while others reported seeing armored vehicles in the town.
Kem recalls being told to ‘stay in his car’ for the duration of the dig.
But when the FBI turned over a trove of records from the dig, they were incomplete, the treasure hunters claim.
Many of the FBI photos are seemingly irrelevant, including the hundreds of images of random trees and a woodland road leading to the dig site, while others simply don’t add up or raise additional questions, Getler said.
The author claims the Nikon D700 camera used during the operation automatically includes digital timecode readouts, yet these were absent from the photographs released by the FBI.
Anne Weismann, the treasure hunters’ attorney, told DailyMail.com that it would be unusual for a federal investigation not to be logged meticulously.
‘From a forensic perspective, you would think that they would use the time and date stamp,’ she said. ‘To me, that’s a big oversight.’
Weismann also believes the FBI is withholding communications it had with the firm whose scientific testing suggested the presence of gold at the site and prompted it to file an affidavit asking for a warrant to seize goods belonging to the US Treasury.
The attorney says the FBI has only provided the site analysis provided by the surveyor, Rettew, and refuses to acknowledge any subsequent contact.
‘They want us to believe that after they found nothing, there was never any follow up with that company,’ Weismann said.
Getler said the treasure hunters may never be able to prove the FBI made off with a pot of gold. But he added: ‘What we can prove is that the FBI did conduct a night excavation, despite their denial.’
The FBI records also show that several weeks before the excavation, an agent with the agency’s art crime team approached Wells Fargo to ask whether it shipped gold by stagecoach for the U.S. Mint in 1863.
Wells Fargo historians turned up no evidence of it but said records from the era are incomplete.
Wells Fargo did ship gold by stagecoach, a corporate archivist wrote in an email to the FBI, but large quantities of the precious metal, as well as gold that had to be carried long distances, were ‘better transported by ship or train.’
Getler said the gold might have been transported by wagon, not stagecoach.
The FBI declined to comment when contacted by DailyMail.com, but it has repeatedly denied it kept digging at night.
It has previously said ‘no gold or other items of evidence were located or collected’ and that ‘the only items the FBI removed from the site were the equipment and supplies brought in for the dig’.
The agency said that while geophysical testing ‘had suggested a potential cultural heritage site at Dents Run, that possibility was not borne out by the excavation’.
Rettew has said it cannot comment due to a confidentiality agreement with the FBI.