New witnesses in the FBI Civil War gold heist emerge

We’ve been covering this story since it first rose to national attention almost three years ago, but more details continue to emerge. We’re talking about the treasure-hunting duo Dennis and Kem Parada of Finders Keepers, who believed they tracked down the location of a huge shipment of gold that was “lost” during the Civil War in rural Dents Run, Pennsylvania. Unable to get permission to dig for the treasure, they enlisted the help of the government. That’s when the FBI showed up with earth-moving equipment and conducted their own secretive dig, later claiming that they found nothing. The treasure hunters didn’t believe them and took them to court in a case that is still unfolding. But now, two new witnesses have come forward and they say they’re not buying what the FBI is claiming either.

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The FBI’s highly unusual search for buried Civil War-era treasure more than five years ago set in motion a dispute over what, if anything, the agency unearthed and an ongoing legal battle over key records. There’s so much intrigue that even a federal judge felt compelled to note in a ruling last week: “The FBI may have found the gold — or maybe not.”

Now, two witnesses have come forward to share with The Associated Press what they heard and saw in the woods that late-winter morning, raising questions about the FBI’s timeline and adding plot twists to a saga that blends elements of legend, fact and science – and a heavy dose of government secrecy.

The witnesses are elk- hunting guide Eric McCarthy and his client, Don Reichel. They were up on the ridge on the night that the FBI dug for the gold while forcing the treasure-hunters to remain in their car so they couldn’t watch. McCarthy and Reichel both say that they saw armored trucks leaving the area and at least one of them “rode low, as if it was carrying a full load.” They also claim that they heard the sound of heavy machinery all through the night, though the FBI’s permit only allowed them to operate until 10 pm.

This doesn’t prove anything definitively since it’s only witness testimony years after the fact. And the witnesses didn’t actually see any gold, just the equipment the FBI was using. But it still adds more weight to the suspicions any of us have had because nothing about the FBI’s story makes any sense whatsoever. The Bureau claims that the dig came up empty, they showed the treasure-hunters the empty hole, filled it back in, and left.

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But the FBI brought in an environmental scanning company that used advanced metal detectors and ground penetrating radar and the documents the Bureau tried to keep from the court show that they described a “very high-density subsurface target” in that spot. (Matching what the Paradas found with their own equipment.) Even if there was no gold, if they found a big concentration of some other dense metal, don’t you suppose they would have shown it to the men so they would understand what was really there?

If they really found nothing, why would they have been hauling any sort of material out of the area in armored trucks? They would have used all of the dirt and rocks they dug up to fill the hole back in, right? And beyond all of that, why all of the secrecy and the court battles and denied FOIA requests? If all they did was dig a hole in the ground, fill it back in and leave, what is the need for secrecy? Are they afraid that our adversaries might discover that America has backhoe technology?

Given all we’ve learned about the FBI in the past few years, they have used up any benefit of the doubt that I might have previously given them. I still firmly believe that they found six tons of gold, they stole it, and now they’re trying to cover it up. But if so, where did the gold go? If they had turned it over to the Treasury Department there would be a record of it. Six tons of gold doesn’t simply appear without people noticing. If they sold it, there should be records of that also. This entire story stinks to high heaven and the public deserves some much better and more believable answers than we’ve been getting thus far.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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