Authorities are connecting the blocks in their probe into a scam involving Lego sets at Target stores in the Bay Area, saying two men arrested recently in separate counties were not in cahoots, but rather capitalizing on a nationwide crime trend.
“Apparently it’s a huge scam these days,” San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said Thursday.
The scam in question involves crooks pasting barcodes onto expensive Lego sets at Target stores in order to score large discounts. They then resell the sets — many of them “Star Wars”-themed — on eBay.
Recently, two very different Bay Area men were charged separately in connection with the scam: A Silicon Valley tech executive and an unemployed, down-on-his-luck San Francisco man.
On May 8, police arrested Thomas Langenbach, 47, a vice president at the software company SAP Labs in Palo Alto, on charges that he sold discounted Lego sets on eBay after hitting several stores in Santa Clara County. Hundreds of unopened boxes were recovered from his San Carlos home, prosecutors said.
This week, authorities announced similar charges against Donald Morales, 44, of San Francisco, who allegedly hit Target stores in San Mateo County. Morales was arrested at a Redwood City store in April. Investigators later linked him to similar scams at stores in San Bruno, Daly City, Redwood City and San Mateo, prosecutors said.
Morales’ alleged crimes happened between Feb. 20 and April 14. He would mark down a Star Wars Millenium Falcon Lego set from $139.99 to $15.99 before reselling it on eBay, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Unlike Langenbach, a highly paid executive, Morales told investigators he was “out of work and needed money,” Wagstaffe said.
Langenbach’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 20. Morales’ next court date is June 28.