Maryland historian pleads guilty to stealing hundreds of military dog tags, historic items, officials say

A historian in Maryland pleaded guilty Thursday to theft after being accused of stealing more than 200 military dog tags and other historic items belonging to the U.S. government, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

Through the end of 2012 to mid-2017, Antonin DeHays, 33, stole identification cards, personal letters, photographs, a bible, and portions of a downed U.S. aircraft, as well as dog tags, from the public research room at the National Archives, the Maryland District Attorney’s Office said. In total, more than 400 items were reportedly taken.

Included among the items were two dog tags once belonging to a Tuskegee Airman, who died in 1944, officials said. DeHays reportedly donated one of the items to a museum, and in exchange, was permitted to climb inside a single-seat fighter airplane from World War II.

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Additionally, officials said they found DeHays had sold several of the historic items online. DeHays would reportedly try to cover his tracks by occasionally removing the pencil etchings from the dog tags, which could have potentially identified them as belonging to the National Archive.

The district attorney statement included portions of text messages he reportedly sent to interested customers, sharing details of the items condition. When describing dog tags he was selling, he reportedly said they were “burnt and show some stains of fuel, blood … very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash.”

DeHays also kept some of the stolen records at his home in College Park, which were found by authorities during a raid.

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Aside from being a historian, DeHays also worked part-time at the Maryland-based nonprofit National History Day. Following his arrest in June, the group issued a statement saying DeHays was no longer working there and called his actions “deplorable.”

DeHays was charged with theft of government property and could face up to 10 years in jail, the district attorney’s office said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.