The former chief of the National Archives’ audio-visual holdings has been charged with stealing nearly a 1,000 sound recordings over a decade.
Tuesday’s charges against Leslie Charles Waffen come a year after federal agents raided his home, seizing dozens of boxes from his Rockville basement.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Greenbelt charged the 40-year Archives official with theft of federal property, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a possible fine. Waffen had retired from the Archives shortly before last year’s raid.
Charging documents say agents seized 955 “sound recording items”during the raid, although the items are not specified.
Waffen’s attorney, Michael Fayad, said he was “not in a position” to comment on the charge.
The audiovisual holdings contain more than 90,000 film, sound and video recordings made by government agencies and private sources. Many are presidential recordings, kept at presidential libraries and museums. Many more are kept at the Archives’ facility in College Park.
The government’s sound archives date to 1896. A 2004 New York Times article described Waffen’s efforts to preserve the only known audio recording of the John F. Kennedy assassination. His department also had custody of the famous 8mm color home video of the assassination known as the Zapruder film.
The Archives’ inspector general and government auditors have criticized the agency for lax security and for failing to safeguard sensitive information. Lawmakers criticized the Archives two years ago after a hard drive with sensitive data from the Clinton administration disappeared. It contained national security information, more than 100,000 Social Security numbers, contact information for Clinton administration officials and other sensitive data.
Waffen, 66, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a plea hearing.