Ex- government worker admits selling stolen National Archives recordings

Baseball great Babe Ruth is wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform in a 1918 photo from the Chicago History Museum.

Story highlights

  • Leslie Waffen, 66, pleads guilty to embezzling government property, faces 10-year term
  • He worked at National Archives and Records Administration for more than 40 years
  • Waffen says he sold a 1937 voice recording of Babe Ruth for $34.74 on eBay
  • Search of his home found 955 NARA recordings worth at least $30,000, court documents say

A Maryland man pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling on eBay sound recordings donated to the National Archives, including one of baseball great Babe Ruth.

Leslie Waffen, 66, pleaded guilty to embezzling government property. He worked at the National Archives and Records Administration, known as NARA, for more than 40 years and was once the head of the department involving motion picture and sound recordings. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland, he engaged in "an eight-year scheme to sell items on eBay that he stole from the National Archives."

Waffen admitted to selling a December 1937 voice recording of Ruth out hunting for the sum of $34.74 on eBay. That item was recovered by investigators. The plea agreement does not list the additional stolen recordings the government says Waffen sold on eBay.

Court documents say agents searched Waffen's home last year and found at least 955 sound recordings belonging to NARA that are worth at least $30,000.

"This case is especially egregious because the defendant was a high-ranking government employee who violated his obligation to protect historical records," U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a written 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."

Waffen is scheduled to be sentenced in March and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.