A Rockville man has pleaded guilty to embezzling government property in connection with a scheme to sell a voice recording of baseball legend Babe Ruth and other recordings taken from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration on eBay, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore announced Wednesday.
Leslie Charles Waffen, 66, a former National Archives employee who worked for the agency for more than 40 years, was charged in the case on Sept. 27, The Gazette reported.
On Sept. 28, 2010, Waffen sold an original master copy of a Babe Ruth voice recording on eBay for $34.74, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The recording captures Ruth hunting on Dec. 10, 1937. Law enforcement agents recovered the recording from the buyer. A unique NARA item number was visible on a paper sleeve containing the recording, the release said.
The recording was part of a donation to NARA by a radio engineer at CBS, NBC and Mutual Radio Networks of more than 3,000 sound recordings, the release said. Waffen, who according to the plea agreement worked for NARA from July 1969 until June 2010, processed the donated recordings in 1975 and 1976.
From 2005 until June 2010, Waffen was Chief of the Motion Picture, Sounds and Video Recording Branch of the agency’s Special Media Archives Services Division, according to the plea agreement.
Waffen sold other items belonging to NARA on eBay on September 17 and 29, 2010, and October 13, 2010, under the username “hi-fi_gal,” according to the agreement.
U.S. Marshals searched Waffen’s home in the 500 block of Saddle Ridge Lane in Rockville’s King Farm neighborhood on Oct. 26, 2010. They seized 6,153 individual sound recordings, according to the agreement.
At least 955 of those recordings, worth at least $30,000, belonged to NARA, the release said. Agents also turned up evidence that between Aug. 2, 2010 and Oct. 26, 2010, Waffen sold a number of recordings that belonged to NARA.
As part of the plea agreement, Waffen will turn over the 955 recordings and pay restitution for the full amount of the loss, the release said.
Waffen faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Baltimore at 2 p.m. on March 5.
A call to Michael Fayad, who is listed as Waffen's lawyer, was not answered.
“This is the second case prosecuted in Maryland this year involving the theft of historically significant items owned by the government,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in the news release. “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.”