A Silicon Valley executive was charged with four felony counts of second degree burglary after allegedly creating his own barcodes and placing them on Lego toys at Target stores to get major discounts.
Thomas Langenbach, 47, was arraigned Tuesday in Santa Clara County Court, but did not enter a plea.
The vice president of SAP Labs Integration and Certification Center allegedly stole from Target stores around his San Carlos home and then sold the items on eBay. Each of the four counts represents the number of confirmed visits to Target stores where theft allegedly occurred.
When authorities searched his home they found hundreds of boxes of unopened Legos. The volume and the types suggest it was not for personal use, according to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson.
Hendrickson is not sure why Langenbach would go to such great lengths. "It's a bit of a head scratcher, the complexity of the crime and the amount of resources needed to commit the crime leave you scratching your head", she said. "Mr. Langenbach is a VP of a successful company, living in a nice home and making money gainfully and in his free time creating false barcodes and going into Target stores and stealing Legos."
Also present in the house were packaging materials consistent with the information provided by eBay that Langenbach sold 2,100 items and made $30,000 Hendrickson said. Legos boxes, depending on the size, range in price from $15 to $279.
Target stores often count popular items before and after closing in an effort to prevent theft. In April, Loss Prevention noticed the price of Legos in stock didn't match store receipt records and began an inventory check.
After investigators sifted through sales records and footage they found Langenbach purchasing the toys at a much lower price, according to Hendrickson. Investigators also realized he used a credit or debit card once and were able to get his name.
The investigation led to a search on Ebay and that is when they came across Langenbach's year old account where he was selling Legos, police said.
A flyer with Langenbach's picture was then circulated at Target stores to Loss Prevention teams. When Langenbach walked into a Target store in Mountain View, Calif., on May 8 the loss prevention team immediately placed him under surveillance. That is when they noticed him placing bar codes on several items, but only buying one at a discounted price, authorities said. Once outside, Langenbach was arrested by Mountain View police.
Hendrickson said the investigation is still ongoing and Langenbach may be charged with another count of burglary at a Target store in the neighboring San Mateo County. She added that Langenbach had three more preprinted barcodes in his pocket when he was arrested and another 32 in his car.
"It looked like something he had been doing for a while and planned to keep doing ," she said.
Langenbach could not be reached for comment and his lawyer Thomas Greenberg declined to comment on the charges against his client.
A spokesman for SAP released a short statement. "This is a personal matter for the employee concerned and out of respect for his privacy, SAP has no comment," the company said.
If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.