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Historian pleads guilty to stealing WWII dog tags from National Archives, selling on eBay

The National Archives College Park (Tom Roussey/ABC7)

BALTIMORE (ABC7/AP) -- A French historian has pleaded guilty to stealing dog tags and numerous other documents of U.S. servicemen whose planes crashed during World War II.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Maryland says 33-year-old Antonin DeHays pleaded guilty Thursday to the theft of government property from the National Archives.

Between December 2012 and June 2017, DeHays regularly visited the public research room of the National Archives at College Park. He stole at least 291 dog tags and 134 records, including personal letters, photographs and small pieces of U.S. aircraft downed during the war.

Prosecutors say DeHays sold the majority of the items on eBay and other sites.

The French national faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

One of the dog tags stolen by DeHays was that of Leonard Willette, a pilot with the famous all-black Tuskegee Airmen.

Court records indicate DeHays gave Willette’s tag to a Virginia Beach museum as a “gift” after the museum gave him the opportunity to sit in a Spitfire airplane.

The museum didn’t realize until later the “gift” was actually stolen.

DeHays’s public defender Patricia Richman sent ABC7 News a statement she said DeHays wanted to make:

"No words can express how profoundly ashamed and sorry I am for my actions and I have actively worked with investigators to locate and return items to the National Archive and Records Administration. I take full responsibility and apologize for any damage I have caused."

One item ABC7 learned has been returned – the dog tag of Leonard Willette. Willette died in 1944 when his plane had engine trouble and crashed in Germany while he was helping escort a bombing run.

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