Second Lego Scam, This Time on Peninsula

Two Bay Area men this week were charged with Lego barcode scams

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A man charged with switching barcodes and stealing Legos from Target didn't appear in a Redwood City courtroom Wednesday, two days after a San Carlos engineer was charged with a similar crime.

    Because of the no-show, there is an arrest warrant out for Donald Morales, 44, of San Francisco, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

    "Thefts of Legos is huge," Wagstaffe said. "I just had no concept."

    NBC Bay Area first reported another Lego barcode scam earlier this week, prompting international attention to the popular crime, where people buy items such as Star Wars Lego sets for half-price or less.

    Morales was arrested April 14 on a misdemeanor charge, after allegedly switching the barcode stickers on Lego sets at a Redwood City Target. He was cited and told to appear in court, which  he did not. In the meantime, Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Baumb amended Morales' case, charging him with 15 felonies totaling about $1,500 of Legos bought at much-reduced prices. He then allegedly sold the toys on eBay.

    After she filed the paperwork, Baumb spotted NBC Bay Area's story Monday about Thomas Langenbach, a vice president at Palo Alto's SAP, charged with four counts of burglary for a similar "ticket switching" bar code scam.

    Target security spotted Langenbach switching homemade barcode stickers on Legos, and buying them for cheaper prices. For instance, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson said Langenbach bought a $279 box of Millenium Falcon box of LEGOS for just $49, and bought a $90 Anakin LEGO set for about $35. His charges stem from seven boxes of Legos worth about $1,000. But Hendrickson said that authorities discovered "hundreds and hundreds" of boxes of Legos inside his multimillion dollar San Carlos home before his arrest on May 9. And since last April, authorities say Langenbach has sold about 2,100 Lego boxes on eBay for $30,000.

    There is no direct connection to the cases, though Wagstaffe noted "they are remarkably similar."

    Just Google Lego and barcode scam, and plenty of cases come up, including a time in 2005 when a Reno man was arrested for stealing $200,000 of boxes of Legos from Targets across the West coast.

    In Morales' case, Wagstaffe said he told police he was out of a job and homeless, selling the Legos on eBay to make some money.

    In Langenbach's case, police reports indicate he was simply "curious" to see if the barcode switch would work after watching a tutorial on YouTube.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/ljfernandez.

    To see a report on Thomas Langenbach's case, view here.