A former National Archives employee admitted Wednesday that he stole dozens of historical documents, including presidential pardons signed by Abraham Lincoln and slave trade materials.
Shawn P. Aubitz, 45, of Morrisville, pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft by a government employee. He could get as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing in June.
Aubitz had worked at the National Archives and Records Administration in Philadelphia for 14 years. Prosecutors said he took the documents from 1996 to 1999 simply by putting them in his briefcase.
Aubitz sold the documents to collectors, using the money--more than $200,000--for personal expenses and credit card debt, authorities said.
The stolen items included 64 presidential pardons, nearly $7,500 worth of autographed photographs of Apollo astronauts and an 1863 warrant to the U.S. marshal ordering him to seize Arlington House, the estate of Robert E. Lee, during the Civil War.
Of the pardons, 24 have been recovered, although none of the Apollo photographs was found. The warrant was also recovered, prosecutors said.
“Shawn has given them every name of every collector, every place that he recollects that any of the items were sold,” said defense lawyer Jodeen M. Hobbs.
Investigators were tipped off to the theft when a federal worker became suspicious of an item offered for sale online.