Hunters always seem to be the ones finding things in the woods: car wrecks, human limbs, dead bodies. And now, two Pennsylvania woodsmen are claiming to have seen something even more surprising: the FBI covertly stealing millions of dollars of gold from a backwoods dig site.
Shed-hunting guide Eric McCarthy and his client Don Reichel say they saw a fully loaded armored vehicle leaving a dig operation near the rural valley of Dents Run in 2018. The pair was out shed hunting on an early March morning when they heard an odd clanging sound reverberating through the woods. McCarthy crested a small hill to get a look at the commotion. On the other side, he saw a generator, floodlights, an excavator, a skid-steer, and a handful of people huddled under a tarp.
To McCarthy, it looked like they were wrapping up a dig. And indeed, the FBI was conducting a known operation in the area. They were searching for a pile of treasure—gold, either lost or stolen from an 1863 Union shipment to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The army wagon carrying the gold disappeared en route and supposedly was never found. The FBI claims they didn’t find anything in their dig, either. McCarthy, Reichel, and another pair of treasure hunters, however, say otherwise.
Dennis Parada and his son, Kem Parada, own Finders Keepers, a treasure-hunting business in Pennsylvania. They had been on the hunt for the missing 1863 shipment for years, and in 2018 believed they had finally amassed enough evidence to prove its existence. They went to the FBI with their evidence, seeking a claim to a “finders fee” for discovering the treasure.
Within months, the FBI hired a geophysical consulting firm, Enviroscan, to survey the hillslope with expensive metal-detecting equipment typically used in mining operations. The survey turned up a 7- to 9-ton metallic mass with about the density of gold in precisely the spot that the Paradas had suspected it would be. Then the FBI started digging. Originally, the Paradas said the agreement was that they could watch the dig, but the FBI confined them to their vehicles, allowing them only to see the dig at the end of day two—at that point just a big, empty hole.
That was the same day that McCarthy and Reichel saw the caravan of armored vehicles leaving the site. One of them appeared to be fully loaded, presumably with gold. “It was loaded to the gills,” McCarthy told the Associated Press. “I know what it looks like,” he added, based on his experience driving heavy equipment for years. McCarthy believes he stumbled upon an illicit nighttime operation to extract the gold (the FBI’s permits allowed for digging only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.).
The FBI vehemently denies all of McCarthy’s claims. A spokesperson even declared that no armored vehicles were present at the dig site, at any point.
Now, the Parada’s are taking the FBI to court in search of their finder’s fee from the gold. Recently, they requested dig-related documents from the agency, via the Freedom of Information Act, and the FBI claimed to have none. Then they filed a lawsuit, including evidence from their own game-camera footage of the FBI actively taking videos on the site. Still, the FBI denied that any video or photographic records of the dig ever existed, and also refused to hand over copies of the dig-operation plan.
After watching the plight of the Parada’s for years, McCarthy finally decided to come forward with what he saw on that day in the woods. “I just felt like I needed to say what I saw, you know?” McCarthy said. It might not have been the brown gold he was after, but what he witnessed could help some fellow citizens see a rightful portion of the Dents Run treasure.
To most, McCarthy will return to being “just another hunter” who found something in the woods. But in Dents Run, he’s the guy who caught the FBI red-handed, secretly ushering out gold from a covert operation.
Feature image via AP News Facebook Page.