The father-son duo of Dennis and Kem Parada spent years combing a bit of Pennsylvania wilderness with high-end metal detectors to prospect for a fabled cache of Civil War gold. They felt certain they'd found the hiding place, but at the end of the court-sanctioned excavation, the FBI in March escorted the treasure hunters to the site, where there wasn't so much as a glimmer of gold dust. "We were embarrassed," Dennis Parada tells the AP. "They ... [made] us look like dummies." Since that day, however, neighbors' accounts of late-night excavation and FBI convoys have fueled suspicions the agency isn't telling the whole truth. The Paradas are now challenging the FBI's account of the dig, insisting the gold, said to have been lost or stolen after the Union Army sent a shipment from Wheeling, W. Va, to Philadelphia in 1863, had to have been buried near Dents Run.
The Paradas spent seven years digging before going to the FBI in January with their evidence. They say the FBI then hired an outside firm to conduct an underground scan, which IDed a large metallic mass with gold's density. The lost shipment is said to have had up to 52 bars, each weighing 50 pounds, worth about $50 million today. The Paradas say the scan detected a much larger quantity of metal—7 to 9 tons—which could be worth more than $250 million. They were sent from the site by the FBI that day in March, but they don't think the FBI left. Federal investigators, meanwhile, say the search came up empty, adding cryptically its work there was tied to an "ongoing investigation." An FBI rep says court documents on the dig are sealed. More here on the neighbors' excavation claim, the black SUVs they say converged on the site, and the court battle that could ensue. (Read more gold stories.)