- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

A former employee of the agency that safeguards the nation’s records including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution has been charged with stealing from the agency over a 10-year period.

Leslie Charles Waffen, who worked at the National Archives and Records Administration for 40 years, was charged Tuesday with theft of United States property. A document charging Mr. Waffen says officials seized 955 “sound recording items” from his home in October 2010, though it does not specify what the items were. The thefts occurred between 2001 and 2010, according to the document, which was filed in federal court in Greenbelt.

Court documents suggest a plea deal is in the works. A telephone message left Thursday at Mr. Waffen’s home in Rockville was not immediately returned, and no attorney was listed in court documents. Theft of government property carries a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison as well as a possible fine.

Archives Inspector General Paul Brachfeld said he could not specify what records or recordings were associated with the Waffen case because prosecutors are close to a plea agreement. The items recovered were not known to have gone missing, but their historic content would be apparent, he said.

“I think the American public … a lot of it will be things they read about in their history books,” Mr. Brachfeld said.

Mr. Brachfeld said Mr. Waffen was a senior staff member who had access to “very historical” records.

Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said Mr. Waffen oversaw motion picture, sound and video recordings kept at the archives’ facility in College Park.

Presidential recordings made after the time of President Herbert Hoover are kept at presidential libraries and museums. Some older presidential recordings from before the 1930s, though there were fewer from that time, would be kept at the College Park facility, Ms. Cooper said.

Mr. Waffen, 66, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a plea hearing.

• Associated Press writer Brett Zongker contributed to this report.

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