Thomas Langenbach, 47, allegedly purchased the items at greatly lowered prices scanned from the barcodes, according to a criminal complaint by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.
Loss-prevention officers initially detained Langenbach at Target, Inc., 555 Showers Drive, Mountain View, after he purchased a LEGO set that he allegedly labeled with a fraudulent barcode.
Mountain View police arrested him May 8 at the store at about 3:45 p.m. Langenbach had been "ticket switching" LEGO boxes since April 20 at the Mountain View and Cupertino Target stores and another Target near his San Carlos home, said Liz Wylie, Mountain View police spokeswoman.
Police found hundreds of unopened LEGO sets — many special-edition items — as well as six of the seven stolen items at his gated, multimillion-dollar home, according to court papers.
Investigators also found eight Ziploc bags containing labels with fraudulent barcodes in his 2011 Toyota Sienna van and shipping boxes in the home. Police say he had an eBay account, through which he has sold 2,100 items since April 17, 2011.
Under the name Tom's Brickyard, Langenbach has sold about $30,000 in merchandise on the eBay account, Wylie said. At the time of his arrest, 193 items were for sale. Most were LEGO sets, according to court papers.
Langenbach attracted the attention of Target's security after the first case in Cupertino, Wylie said. The popular, expensive toys are targeted for thefts, and the stores keep a close watch on the products, conducting daily inventories, she said. Target obtained surveillance footage of Langenbach, according to documents.
On April 20, Langenbach allegedly entered the Cupertino store at 20745 Stevens Creek Blvd. and purchased two LEGO kits. He added a barcode sticker for $24.99 to a kit valued at $69.99 and a second sticker for $49.99 to a kit valued at $119, Wylie said. That same day he allegedly switched barcodes on two LEGO products at the Mountain View store: one for $49.99 valued at $139.99 and another for $19.99 on a $59.99 product.
He allegedly switched labels on two LEGO products at the store near his home, valued at $89.99 and $279.98, on April 26. On May 1, he again went to the Mountain View store, purchasing a set valued at $59.99 for $19.99, Wylie said.
By this time, Target's loss-prevention department began circulating a photograph of Langenbach at all of its stores, taken from surveillance footage. On May 8, a loss-prevention officer immediately recognized him and observed Langenbach putting barcodes on three items, Wylie said.
Langenbach allegedly went to the customer price scanner and checked the items, then returned two to the shelves. He then purchased one LEGO toy containing the fraudulent barcode, a Razor scooter and dish liquid. Security detained him outside the store, according to court papers. He was booked into Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose and was later released on $10,000 bail.
Wylie said Langenbach had many assembled LEGO sets in his home and has "drawers and drawers of LEGO bricks separated out by color."
Langenbach denied that he intended to steal the items, according to court papers. He told police that he had seen a video on YouTube about how to make fake barcodes to get cheaper toys. He said he switched the barcodes out of curiosity, to see if it really worked. He also wanted to see if the customer price scanner and cash-register scanner priced the items the same or cheaper, he said.
But he told police he was not paying attention when he checked out the item on May 8 and that he hadn't checked his receipt to see if the price was cheaper before leaving the store, according to the police report. He denied having switched the barcodes in the other incidents. Police have also linked a credit card he used for his eBay account to one used in one of the April 20 incidents, according to the report.
Among the items found in Langenbach's home were: 46 boxes of special edition Magma Monster LEGO sets, 16 Sunblock LEGOs and 75 packages of LEGO Mini Figures. Wylie said it isn't yet known if the items were purchased using fraudulent barcodes or at legitimate prices.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson said the investigation is ongoing. Although the thefts for which he is charged only amount to about $1,000, the sophisticated nature of the crimes and presence of hundreds of boxes of the toys in his home — with a number of them assembled and staged for photographing — led the DA's office to file the felony charges, she said.
"It suggests that this may be part of a much larger scheme," she said. If convicted on all current counts, he could receive a maximum 5-year sentence.
Meghan Mike, spokesperson for Target, said the company could not comment specifically on the case.
"Target takes incidents of this nature very seriously, and we partner closely with local law enforcement to help aid in these investigations," she said.
Langenbach's LinkedIn profile lists him as vice president at the SAP Integration and Certification Center. He has 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry and was educated in Mannheim, Germany. He could not be reached for comment.
He appeared in Santa Clara Superior Court in Palo Alto on Tuesday, May 22, for appointment of an attorney and will return to court June 20 to enter a plea.