Dennis and Kem Parada have spent years prospecting for a legendary stash of Civil War gold in Dents Run, Pennsylvania.
They aren’t the first to search for the cache. Generations of treasure hunters have tried to find the gold, which is believed to have been lost or stolen around the time of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, when the Union Army was attempting to transport it from West Virginia to Philadelphia.
The Paradas spent five years digging in a cave on state land and two more years drilling atop the cave before going to the FBI in January with their evidence.
Last March, feeling quite certain they had found the treasure’s hiding place, the Paradas led the FBI to the spot.
They showed agents how their sophisticated metal detector went crazy when aimed at the spot where they believed the gold was hidden.
Within a month, the FBI had hired an outside firm to conduct an underground scan using a device called a gravimeter. The scan identified a large metallic mass with the density of gold, according to the Paradas and Warren Getler, an author and journalist who’s been working with them, reports the Associated Press.
The Paradas and Getler said the FBI agreed to let them observe the excavation, but then confined them to their car so they were unable to watch the digging.
At the end of the excavation, the FBI led the father-son duo to an empty hole, writes the AP:
They gazed at the pit. Not so much as a glimmer of gold dust, let alone the tons of precious metal they said an FBI contractor’s instruments had detected.
“We were embarrassed,” Dennis Parada told The Associated Press in his first interview since the well-publicized dig last winter. “They walk us in, and they make us look like dummies. Like we messed up.”
But is the FBI being truthful?
Local residents reported seeing late-night excavation work and FBI convoys, leading to suspicions the agency is hiding something.
Now, the Paradas are challenging the FBI’s account of the dig, insisting that something had to have been buried in those woods, as Kem told the AP:
After my years of experience here using equipment, there was something here, something here of value, some kind of precious metal. And whatever it is, it’s gone now. And that’s what I want to get to the bottom of, is what was in that hole.
Naturally, the feds aren’t saying much about the dig, other than claiming they found nothing and adding that the agency’s work there was related to an “ongoing investigation.”
An FBI spokeswoman told the AP that court documents related to the dig are sealed.
“You can only dig the gold up once, and that’s a historical moment. And here we were robbed of all that,” Dennis Parada said. “I don’t understand why they played that game on us.”
“There was definitely some kind of precious metal based on the readings of the instruments at the site,” Cluck said. “The fact they wouldn’t let them be there for the dig, it’s suspicious as hell and it doesn’t have to be.”
In May, Bill Cluck, the Paradas’ lawyer, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents on the FBI’s investigation. The agency claimed it has no files it can share, so Cluck appealed to Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for help. A few weeks ago, the Justice Department ordered the FBI to do a more thorough review. If the bureau determines there are documents it can turn over after all, it could still take months or years to reach that point.
The Paradas probably shouldn’t hold their breath.