A scientific analysis commissioned by the FBI, just before agents dug for buried treasure, suggested a massive amount of gold was under the surface could be.
The report of a geophysicist conducting microgravity testing at the site pointed to an underground object with a mass of up to 9 tons and a density consistent with gold. The FBI used the consultant’s work to obtain a search warrant to confiscate the gold – if anything was found.
The government has long claimed their dig was a failure. But a father-son pair of treasure hunters who have spent years hunting for the fabled Civil War-era gold — and who have led agents to the wooded area in hopes of a finder’s reward — suspect the FBI has betrayed them and made off with a cache that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The newly uncovered geophysical survey was part of a court-ordered release of government documents relating to the FBI’s treasure hunt at Dent’s Run, about 135 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, where legend has it that an 1863 shipment of Union gold was either lost or stolen was en route to the US Mint in Philadelphia.
Dennis and Kem Parada, co-owners of treasure hunting outfit Finders Keepers, successfully sued the Justice Department over the records after being blocked by the FBI. Finders Keepers provided The Associated Press with the FBI records. The FBI then published them on its website.
Engineering survey data collected by geophysical consultancy Enviroscan confirmed extensive fieldwork by treasure hunters on site – prompting the FBI to dig up in a massive, covert operation that lasted several cold days in late winter 2018.
John Louie, a geophysics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno unrelated to the dig, reviewed Enviroscan’s report at the AP’s request and said the “company’s methods are very good” and “their conclusions represent a physical.” reasonable hypothesis”. Gold was buried at the site.
However, he cautioned that the subsurface gravity anomaly identified by Enviroscan does not definitively prove the presence of gold. There are other technical reasons why Enviroscan’s data could be so outlandish, Louie said.
“So it’s also perfectly reasonable that the FBI didn’t find anything at that spot because there wasn’t actually gold there,” he said via email.
Enviroscan co-founder Tim Bechtel declined to comment on his work at Dent’s Run, saying the FBI did not give him clearance to speak. The FBI declined to discuss Bechtel this week, but said that after the dig, agents “did not take any further steps to reconcile the geophysical survey results with the absence of gold or other metals.”
Other documents in the FBI case file just released raise even more questions.
An FBI report with a paragraph dated March 13, 2019 — exactly a year after the dig — claimed agents found nothing at Dent’s Run. No “metals, objects and/or other relevant materials were found,” the report said. “Due to other priority work… the FBI will be closing the case headlined.”
Anne Weismann, an attorney for Finders Keepers, questioned the credibility of the FBI report. She cited both the brevity and the timing – it was written after Finders Keepers began pressuring the government for records.
“It doesn’t read like you would expect,” said Weismann, a former Justice Department attorney. “If that’s the official record on file of what they did and why they did it, it says next to nothing, and it’s crazy.”
She added that if the government does not provide a more complete, contemporaneous account of its quest for the gold, it “will reinforce my view that this is not an accurate record and that this was prepared as a cover-up. And I don’t say that lightly.”
In response, the FBI said the one-page document was “representative of standard summaries filed at the formal conclusion of an FBI investigation.”
The agency has consistently denied finding anything.
The agents acted on information that Dent’s Run “may have been heritage property gold owned by the United States government,” the FBI said in a statement, but “that possibility was not confirmed by the excavation.” The FBI continues to unequivocally deny any claims or speculation to the contrary.”
The trove of documents turned over to Finders Keepers also included nearly 1,000 grainy black-and-white photographs that show some — but certainly not all — of what the FBI was doing at the dig site, according to the treasure hunters.
Local residents have previously said they heard a digger and jackhammer overnight between the first and second days of the excavation, and saw a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks.
The FBI denied that there was any after-hours work at the site, saying the “only nighttime activity was ATV patrols by FBI police personnel who secured the site around the clock for the duration of the excavation.”
Parada suspects that the FBI found the gold in the middle of the night and showed the treasure hunters an empty hole in the afternoon of the second day.
“It’s very odd why the FBI is so misguided and so obstructive to this extent,” said Warren Getler, who has worked closely with the treasure hunters. “You worked under cover of darkness that night to avoid our knowledge of something we were meant to be partners in.”
Many of the FBI photos are seemingly irrelevant, including the hundreds of images of random trees and a forest road leading to the dig site, while others just don’t add up or raise additional questions, claim Parada and Getler, authors of “Rebel Gold,” a book , which examines the possibility of buried deposits of Civil War-era gold and silver.
FBI agents stand around the hole in photos appearing earlier in the series, but they are absent from almost all later images at the dig site.
Getler and Parada say the senior FBI agent told them the hole was filled with water by the morning of the second day, but the low-quality images released by the government show only a small puddle or maybe a bit of snow. They said the same agent spent most of the second day at base camp — where Getler and the treasure hunters say they were mostly confined to their car — rather than at the dig site.
The FBI said it was standard for photos to “document on-site conditions before, during and after FBI operations,” Parada claims that everything points to an overnight clandestine dig and a second-day dig just for show served.
“I think we expected a few hundred photos from the nighttime dig, and I think we expected pictures of metal coins or bars,” Parada said. “I think there were pictures, but they’ve disappeared.”
FBI records also show that a few weeks before the dig, an agent from the agency’s art crime team contacted Wells Fargo to ask if it was shipping gold by stagecoach in 1863 for the US Mint.
Wells Fargo historians have found no evidence of this, but say records from the period are incomplete. While Wells Fargo shipped gold by stagecoach, a company archivist wrote in an email to the FBI, large quantities of the precious metal, as well as gold that must be shipped long distances, are “better shipped by ship or train.”
Getler said the gold may have been transported by wagon, not stagecoach.
Additional FBI releases are expected in the coming months.
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