WASHINGTON — A historian has pleaded guilty to charges that he stole hundreds of dog tags and other government records from a National Archives site in College Park and sold some of them on eBay.
Antonin DeHays, 33, pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Greenbelt Thursday to theft of government property. From December 2012 through about June 2017, DeHays, a French historian with a particular interest in World War II, stole 291 U.S. service members’ dog tags and at least 134 other records from the National Archives location in College Park, Maryland, according to the plea agreement.
While DeHays kept some of the stolen U.S. dog tags and records for himself and gave others as gifts, he sold the majority of the stolen items on eBay and other marketplaces. Before selling the dog tags, he sometimes removed markings that identified them as belonging to the National Archives, according to information from the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland.
In one instance from December 2016, court records say DeHays stole two dog tags from the National Archives at College Park — both of which belonged to a Tuskegee Airman who died when his fighter plane was downed in Germany on Sept. 22, 1944. He gave one of those dog tags to a military aviation museum in exchange for the opportunity to sit inside a Spitfire airplane, a World War II fighter aircraft.
Also, DeHays stole the dog tag that was issued to this father, according to court records.
DeHays also stole other records including identification cards, personal letters, photographs, a Bible and pieces of downed U.S. aircraft, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland.
DeHays swiped the records and dog tags by requesting to view collections at the National Archives site, which allows public access to some records. In many cases, an audit of the collections after DeHays viewed them showed items were missing, court documents show.
On June 9, 2017, members of law enforcement executed a federal search warrant of DeHays’ College Park residence and found several dog tags and documents of U.S. servicemen who served during World War II — many of which were missing the National Archives’ collections, court records stated. He admitted he took them from the College Park facility, according to court records.
DeHays faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has been set for April 4, 2018, at the United States District Court in Greenbelt.