A French historian specializing in World War II history was sentenced to nearly a year in prison for stealing dog tags belonging to U.S. servicemen who perished in a plane crash during WWII, officials announced Tuesday.
Antonin DeHays, whose research focused on the D-Day invasion at Normandy, took nearly 300 dog tags and other artifacts from a public research room at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, the Daily Mail reported.
DeHays reportedly carried out the thefts during his visits to the research room between 2012 and 2017 and used his researcher ID to gain access to the artifacts.
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said in a statement that he was “relieved” that the historian had been sentenced, calling the thefts “appalling.”
“His sentence sends a strong message to others who may contemplate stealing our nation’s history,” Ferreiro said.
Ferreiro said in an impact statement for the court that the National Archives has spent thousands of dollars trying to assess how much DeHays stole and recover the items from third-party buyers, adding that the archives may not be able to determine the extent of the loss.
DeHays used eBay to sell most of the items to unsuspecting buyers and made thousands of dollars off the items. Some of the artifacts included 291 dog tags and 134 personal records of WWII soldiers.
At his Monday sentencing hearing at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, DeHays admitted to the court that he sold the stolen items to create a collection for his “dream museum.”
“At that time, I saw it as a sacrifice I had to make if I wanted my dream to come true,” DeHays told the judge.
“This was an egregious, morally repugnant crime,” Judge Theodore Chuang said as he sentenced DeHays.
Following his prison sentence, DeHays will spend three years on probation — with eight of those months under home confinement — and would have to perform 100 hours of community service, the Washington Post reported. He faced a maximum sentence of ten years behind bars.