Former National Archives Employee Pleads Guilty to Selling Sound Recordings Donated to the Archives

At Least 955 Sound Recordings Donated to the National Archives
Were Seized From the Defendant’s Home

October 4, 2011

Greenbelt, Maryland - Leslie Charles Waffen, age 66, of Rockville, Maryland, who had been employed at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for over 40 years, pleaded guilty today to embezzling government property in connection with an eight year scheme to sell items on eBay that he stole from the National Archives.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Inspector General Paul Brachfeld of the National Archives and Records Administration - Office of Inspector General; and Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division.

“This is the second case prosecuted in Maryland this year involving the theft of historically significant items owned by the government, “ said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “This case is especially egregious because the defendant was a high-ranking government employee who violated his obligation to protect historical records that belong to the National Archives and Records Administration. These items were entrusted to the National Archives to be used by all citizens, not to be auctioned for personal profit to the highest bidder.”

According to Waffen’s plea agreement, Waffen was employed by NARA from 1969 to June 3, 2010. He served as Chief of the Motion Picture, Sounds and Video Recording Branch of the Special Media Archives Services Division from 2005 to June 3, 2010.

In 1975 and 1976, Waffen processed a donation made to NARA by a radio engineer at CBS, NBC and the Mutual Radio Networks of more than 3,000 individual original sound recordings. Each recording was given a unique NARA item number.

On September 28, 2010, Waffen sold an original master copy of a Babe Ruth voice recording, which captures Ruth hunting on December 10, 1937, on eBay for $34.74. Law enforcement agents recovered the recording from the buyer. NARA item number 2172 was visible on a paper sleeve containing the recording. The recording was one of the items donated to NARA and processed by Waffen in 1975 and 1976. Waffen sold additional items belonging to NARA on eBay on September 17 and 29, 2010, and October 13, 2010.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Waffen’s home on October 26, 2010 and seized 6,153 individual sound recording items. At least 955 of these sound recording items, worth at least $30,000, belonged to NARA. Agents also seized documentary evidence that showed that between at least August 2, 2001 and October 26, 2010, Waffen sold a number of additional sound recording items belonging to NARA.

As part of his plea agreement, Waffen has agreed to forfeit at least 955 sound recordings seized from his home and pay restitution for the full amount of the loss.

Waffen faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled sentencing for March 5, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended NARA OIG and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Arun G. Rao, who is prosecuting the case.

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