Did the FBI steal tons of Civil War gold?

This is a rather odd story that I’ve been following for a while now, so bear with me. It’s been featured on a couple of the Travel Channel’s conspiracy theory shows and you’ll see why in a moment if you’re not familiar with it. But a recent development may bring it out of the tinfoil hat column and at least into the realm of possibility.

The tale starts in the 1860s when legend has it that a large wagon full of gold bullion was either stolen or “went missing” in a remote area of western Pennsylvania. The shipment had supposedly been on its way to the mint in Philadelphia but it never arrived. This has led any number of would-be treasure hunters to scour the forests in that region looking for a massive payday. The amount of gold was rumored to be between seven and nine tons, making it worth hundreds of millions of dollars today. But all efforts to locate it had come up empty.

That might have changed in 2018. A father and son team named Parada who co-own the treasure-hunting outfit Finders Keepers were investigating a remote part of Elks County called Dent’s Run. Using a sophisticated metal detector they located what seemed to be a huge hit of something metallic. But the site sits on state land and permission had to be obtained to do any excavating. For some reason or other, they wound up contacting the FBI about their discovery in January of 2018. Soon the FBI had hired an environmental survey outfit with a gravimeter to search the area. They confirmed that there was a “large metallic mass” under the ground.

In March of that year, the FBI climbed that hill with shovels and other excavating equipment to begin digging themselves. The Pradas and Warren Getler, an author who researches lost Civil War-era treasures, had made arrangements with the FBI to observe the dig. But that day and the next, they were told to remain in their cars while the FBI was on the site. At the end of the second day, the FBI agents took the three men up to the site and showed them a large, empty hole, telling them they had found nothing.

But neighbors around the area told investigators that they saw large numbers of FBI vehicles and earth-moving equipment, including dump trucks and backhoes, going back and forth through the area. It was also happening at night when there was supposedly no digging going on and the Paradas and Getler were not in the vicinity. The story didn’t sit well with them, but the FBI continued to maintain that they had found nothing and had no further information to share.

Now, however, through FOIA requests and court orders, the FBI has released at least some emails on the subject and it certainly sounds like they know more about the story than they’ve been letting on. (Associated Press)

Those documents, which [attorney Bill] Cluck provided to The Associated Press, show that federal law enforcement was indeed after buried treasure.

“We believe the cache itself is in the neighborhood of 3x5x8 (feet) to 5x5x8,” wrote K.T. Newton, an assistant U.S attorney in Philadelphia, in a 2018 email marked “Confidential.” …

Cluck, meanwhile, is still pursuing government material on the case — nearly 2,400 pages, as well as video files, that the FBI has promised to turn over in response to his Freedom of Information Act request.

All documents in the federal court case about the dig remain sealed.

While the story may still sound kind of crazy, the actions of the FBI over the past several years cry out for explanations to a number of questions. First of all, the court order the FBI obtained to perform the dig cited the reason as being “what evidence suggested may have been a cultural heritage site.” Okay. If you thought there might be a “cultural heritage site” there, wouldn’t you send in some archeologists rather than an army of FBI agents with dump trucks and backhoes?

Next, if the FBI’s story is true and the entire trip turned out to be a waste of time, why are all of the records sealed? Why are they fighting in court so hard to keep anyone from seeing the documentation related to the dig? What’s so classified about an empty hole in the ground? Seriously, people… does that make any sense?

And finally, when the treasure hunters’ attorney petitioned the courts to force the FBI to turn over the records, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson denied the petition. But in a footnote to his ruling, the judge listed the name of the sealed federal case. It was “In the Matter of: Seizure of One or More Tons of United States Gold.”

The fight continues to get the files unsealed. It doesn’t seem possible that a group of FBI agents could have heisted that much gold just to keep for themselves without anyone noticing. They might have seized it on behalf of other government agencies, however. But if that’s the case, why lie about it? In any event, there seems to be far more here than meets the eye.