WASHINGTON (WJZ)—The Maryland man entrusted to protect and care for historical items in the National Archives has been sentenced for stealing and selling them.
Alex DeMetrick reports the theft involves thousands of sound recordings.
The National Archives was created to collect the history of America, big and small. That includes recordings of what were originally live radio broadcasts, from Bob Hope’s USO shows to the works of Shakespeare, like Burgess Meredith’s “Hamlet.”
For 40 years, Leslie Waffen worked and supervised those recordings. For the last 10 of those years, he stole more than 6,000 recordings, selling many of them on eBay.
Most brought in a few dollars, but it added up to $83,000.
“The monetary value I would suggest is actually modest when compared to the historical value,” said Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney.
The theft included one of the most famous broadcasts in history, the explosion of the Hindenberg.
In court, a tearful Waffen admitted he had done wrong and hurt his family, friends and the National Archives reputation.
The judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison—not just for the money involved but for violating a trust.
“When somebody violates their trust and they are a federal employee and they take from our collections, it damages our institution and it damages the reputation of all federal workers,” said Paul Brachfeld, office inspector general.
Some of whom are working to track down what Waffen stole and sold, and return it to where it belongs.
Because he has no previous criminal record, Waffen did not receive a stricter sentence. He must report to prison next month.