PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ An employee of the National Archives was charged Monday with stealing hundreds of historical items, from pardons signed by President Lincoln to autographed photographs of Apollo astronauts.

Many of the items were sold and have not been recovered, U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said.

The thefts ``jeopardized our nation's ability to preserve its history for future generations and for review by historians,'' Meehan said.

Shawn Aubitz, 45, was charged with one count of theft by a government employee for allegedly taking items between 1996 and 1999. The National Archives said it believes it is the first time in its 68-year history that an employee has been charged with stealing historical documents.

The stolen items included pardons signed by presidents including James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson; Civil War documents including an 1863 warrant to the United States Marshal to seize Arlington House, the estate of Robert E. Lee; slave trade documents; and hundreds of autographed photographs of astronauts taken during Apollo and space shuttle missions.

Aubitz worked in the agency's downtown Philadelphia office, which maintains records from federal agencies and courts in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The National Archives is based in Washington and has satellite offices in more than a dozen states.

If convicted, Aubitz faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Aubitz has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.


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