A National Archives and Records Administration employee pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling government property — including a recording of Babe Ruth's voice — and selling it on eBay, the Maryland U.S. attorney's office announced.
Leslie Charles Waffen, 66, worked for the NARA since 1969, swiped at least 955 sound recordings worth $30,000 and stashed them in his home or sold them online, according to prosecutors, who charged Waffen last week with stealing from the United States.
His case is the second prosecuted in Maryland this year involving the "theft of historically significant items," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein noted in a statement.
In July, Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff were indicted on charges that they conspired to steal "major artwork" — such as a land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln — from museums and archives throughout the East Coast, including the Maryland Historical Society.
Both men initially pleaded not guilty in the scheme, though Savedoff is scheduled for a rearraignment later this month, signaling that he plans to enter another plea. Neither of his attorneys responded to messages seeking comment.
Waffen, who lives in Rockville, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison at his sentencing, which is set for March 5, 2012.
His most recent position was chief of the Motion Picture, Sounds and Video Recording Branch within the Special Media Archives Services Division from 2005 to June 3, 2010, according to prosecutors.
He used the name "hi-fi_gal" to sell the pilfered recordings on eBay, according to his plea agreement, and pocketed $34.74 for the Ruth recording, which captured a 1937 hunting trip.
Investigators spent more than $48,000 shutting down his operation, according to court records, shelling out thousands to track down sold items, move the evidence, pay for an appraiser and to build a "temporary evidentiary facility for the storage" of seized recordings.
"This case is especially egregious because the defendant was a high-ranking government employee who violated his obligation to protect historical records," Rosenstein said in the statement. "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."