10 March 2021
Three years ago, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were digging in a rural area in the American state of Pennsylvania. No one knew why.
Now, recently released emails have answered that question. They were looking for a very valuable and secret amount of gold from the time of the American Civil War.
On March 13, 2018, treasure hunters led the FBI to Dent's Run, about 220 kilometers northeast of Pittsburgh. At that place, there has long been a story that an 1863 shipment of Union gold was either lost or stolen on its way to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
The Union was the name of the northern states during the civil war.
The FBI has always refused to confirm why exactly it went digging. But, they say, they found nothing.
Dennis Parada and his son Kem brought the federal agents to the area. They remain convinced the FBI found something there. Their lawyer, Bill Cluck, is still demanding answers. He was successful in demanding the release of government emails about the dig.
Cluck showed those documents to The Associated Press. They prove the FBI was looking for gold.
"We believe the cache itself is in the neighborhood of 3x5x8 (feet) to 5x5x8," wrote K.T. Newton in a then secret email. She is an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.
The area in Elk County of Pennsylvania was on state-owned land. The FBI had to get a federal court order to dig there. So, there was an exchange of emails between Newton and Audrey Miner, chief lawyer for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
On March 13, 2018, Miner asked Newton in one of the emails: "Can you please provide the basis upon which the Office of the United States Attorney asserts that the gold, if found, belongs to the federal government?" Newton answered that she would like to "discuss this generally with you [Miner] on the phone."
The Paradas are well-known treasure-hunters. They had spent years looking for the long-lost gold before going to the FBI with their evidence in January 2018. They said their equipment had led them to believe a large amount of metal was buried in the area.
Within weeks, the FBI hired the geophysical company Enviroscan to study the hilltop. Warren Getler, who worked closely with the Paradas and the FBI, said the company confirmed there was a lot of unusual metal in the ground.
Warren Getler also wrote a book about the possibilities of buried gold and silver from the Civil War. Getler said when he asked an FBI agent how big was the find, the agent said, "seven to nine tons."
That much gold would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars today.
Enviroscan co-founder Timothy Bechtel would not talk to the AP about what his equipment found. Bechtel said the FBI has asked him not to talk about his findings.
To prove the metal existed, the FBI needed to dig.
The Paradas and Getler said they had an agreement with the FBI to watch the digging, but the agents forced them to stay in their car. Later, they were brought to see a large, empty hole.
The FBI has insisted they found nothing.
"The FBI...rejects any claims or speculation to the contrary," a spokesman told the AP last week.
On March 16, 2018, two days after the dig ended, Newton emailed Miner that "we are all disappointed."
The dig drew plenty of media attention at the time. On March 28, Miner asked Newton for the latest information on the federal investigation.
In her reply, Newton told Miner: "we have no other scientific evidence, other than what the excavation has been based on, that any gold is hidden in that area."
Miner emailed back: "I guess you can't come right out and state there is no gold to be found at Dent's Run?"
"Unfortunately, we cannot," the prosecutor replied.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
cache - n. a group of things that have been hidden in a secret place
attorney - n. lawyer
assert - v. to state something strongly
geophysical - adj. relating to the physics of the earth
speculation - n. ideas or guesses about something that is not known
to the contrary - phrase. stating or proving the opposite of something
excavation - n. dig
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