Treasure hunters demand answers from FBI about search for civil war-era gold

Treasure hunters who believe they found a huge cache of fabled US civil war-era gold in Pennsylvania are now on the prowl for something as elusive as the buried booty itself: government records of the FBI’s excavation.

Finders Keepers, a lost treasure locate and recovery service, filed a federal lawsuit against the justice department over its failure to produce documents on the FBI’s search for the legendary gold, which took place nearly four years ago at a remote woodland site in north-western Pennsylvania.

“With its request Plaintiff seeks to confirm the FBI’s recovery of Civil War-era gold buried in the mountains of Pennsylvania, based in significant part on scientific evidence of the gold’s existence that Plaintiff provided the FBI,” the lawsuit said.

The FBI has since dragged its feet on the treasure hunters’ Freedom of Information Act request for records, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

“There’s been a pattern of behavior by the FBI that’s been very troubling,” said Anne Weismann, who represents Finders Keepers. She questioned whether the agency was “acting in good faith”.

A message was sent to the justice department seeking comment on the suit, which asks a judge to order the FBI to immediately turn over the records.

Finders Keepers’ owners, the father-son duo of Dennis and Kem Parada, had spent years looking for what, according to the legend, was an 1863 shipment of Union gold that was lost or stolen on its way to the US Mint in Philadelphia, which was supposed to be used to pay the wages of federal troops.

The troops carrying the gold went missing, along with the loot, giving rise to generations of speculation about what happened to it, although historians have cast doubt on the claim, pointing to the lack of official records of the shipment.

The duo focused on a spot where they say their instruments detected a large metallic mass.

After meeting with the treasure hunters in early 2018, the FBI brought in a contractor with more sophisticated instruments. The contractor detected an underground mass that weighed up to nine tons and had the density of gold, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed last year.

“I have probable cause to believe that a significant cache of gold is secreted in the underground cave,” in Dent’s Run, holding “one or more tons” belonging to the US government, Jacob Archer of the FBI’s art crime team in Philadelphia said.

Accounts differ as to the amount of gold in the shipment. Some reports say it was 26 gold bars, others 52. Each would have weighed 23kg, meaning it would be worth up to $50m today.

In March 2018, the Paradas accompanied the FBI to the site in Dent’s Run, approximately 135 miles north-east of Pittsburgh, but say they were confined to their car while the FBI excavated.

The FBI has long insisted that the March 2018 dig came up empty, but the agency has consistently stymied the Paradases’ efforts to obtain information.

Finders Keepers asked the justice department for expedited processing, which can be granted in cases where there is widespread media interest involving questions about the government’s integrity. However, the justice department has denied the request – and, as of last month, has yet to assign the Foia request to a staffer for processing, according to the lawsuit.

“From the outset, it seems as if the FBI is doing everything it can to avoid answering the question of whether they actually found gold,” Weismann said.

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