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Ex-engineer helps stop US Archives thefts

WASHINGTON - Meticulous record keeping by a retired radio engineer helped uncover a thief ripping off the National Archives, the country’s most important repository of records.

When J. David Goldin saw the recorded interview of baseball great Babe Ruth for sale on eBay he knew something was wrong. There was only one original record of that 1937 interview of Ruth, and Goldin had donated it to a government archive more than 30 years ago. Now someone was auctioning it off, the winning bid just $34.75.

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From his home in Sandy Hook, Conn., Goldin looked into the theft and brought it to the attention of authorities. The culprit was the recently retired head of the video and sound branch of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Leslie Charles Waffen, a 40-year employee, has acknowledged stealing thousands of sound recordings from the archive, and prosecutors say more than 1,000 were sold on eBay. Waffen was sentenced by a federal judge in Maryland on Thursday to three years and two months in prison.

The thefts started as early as 2001, and the stolen recordings include items ranging from a recording of the 1948 World Series to an eyewitness report of the Hindenburg crash.

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