SAP Palo Alto vice president arrested for LEGO scam

Man allegedly switched barcodes on products at local Target stores

The vice president of Palo Alto software firm SAP Labs, LLC will be charged on Tuesday with four felony burglary charges for allegedly pasting fraudulent barcodes on LEGO toys at local Target stores.

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. He told police he works as vice president for SAP.

Mountain View police arrested him on 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, Cupertino and 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 -- at his gated, multimillion-dollar home, according to court papers. Six of the seven items stolen from the stores were found at Langenbach's home, according to a police report filed with the court.

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.

Wylie said Langenbach has sold about $30,000 in merchandise on the eBay account under the name Tom's Brickyard. At the time of his arrest, 193 items were for sale. Most were LEGO sets, according to court papers.

Langenbach will be formally arraigned on four counts of second-degree burglary -- entering with intent to commit theft, for the Mountain View and Cupertino thefts. But a fifth charge wasn't filed by the district attorney's office, likely because there wasn't surveillance video of that incident, according to court papers, Wylie said.

Target obtained surveillance footage of Langenbach in the other incidents, according to documents. 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.

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 product valued at $59.99.

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, which was 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 "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 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 told police he is vice president at SAP, according to court papers. His 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, according to the LinkedIn profile. He could not be reached for comment.

He appeared in Santa Clara Superior Court in Palo Alto on May 22 for appointment of an attorney, and will return to court June 20 to enter a plea.


Like this comment
Posted by talk to Meg
a resident of College Terrace
on May 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

What does EBay have to say about this scam? How long has he been fencing stolen merchandise on EBay? How much commission has EBay made from these sales? How could EBay claim ignorance that such a large volume of brand new name brand products was not stolen?

How much other stolen goods does EBay help to fence? What percentage of EBay's profits comes from fencing stolen goods?

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Another VP with a little too much time on his hands. Or will it turn out that he is just underpaid and needs to augment his income "moonlighting" the only way he knows how?

1 person likes this
Posted by Real Life
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Hope he gets jail time and fired from his job over this.
What a low life

Like this comment
Posted by reader
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Guess Santa must have skipped over his house when he was a kid. Odd, odd, odd.

Like this comment
Posted by apc
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm

surprised he wasn't a politician instead, oh wait he was probably getting ready to go into that

Like this comment
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 21, 2012 at 10:47 pm

In what city does he live? That is usually reported in stories like this.

Like this comment
Posted by It says right there...
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm

@Bikes2work - it says right there in the fourth paragraph of the article that he lives in San Carlos...

"and another Target near his San Carlos home, said Liz Wylie, Mountain View police spokeswoman."

1 person likes this
Posted by SOLON
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Title to stolen property never passes. If he is charged with theft of the merchandise, all 200 buyers can be contacted and they must return the items to Target or to the police, and they don't get their money back. Of course, many knew they were stolen. WHy would one person have more than a few new items to discharge at a loss?

If he is charged with felony fraud, target may not be able to get them back, e.g., he "bought" the items, just still owes the money, and the crime is not intending to pay.

Or, if he entered the store with intent to commit a felony, e g fraud, then that is burglary, even of the discounted items weren't "stolen."

A review should be done of all his work at SAP

Was he the one overseeing Palo Alto's ever increasing cost contract with SAP for utility billing?

Like this comment
Posted by george
a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2012 at 12:15 am

what a waste.
I hope that he gets jail time.
I am stunned someone with so much could be so pitifully petty.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2012 at 2:16 am

He must be mentally ill. Very sad a VP of SAP involved in such nonsense. He has to be desperate or mentally ill to do this.

Like this comment
Posted by Boston-Blackie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2012 at 6:52 am

> The e-Bay buyers knew the items were stolen.
> WHy would one person have more than a few new items to
> discharge at a loss?

This statement is not very cogent. The world is full of left over "stuff" that was intended for a retail outlet, but was not sold. Stores go out of business, or get into financial trouble, and stock ("stuff") is sold, or traded, to cover debts, or pay for services in kind. This happens every day in the world of "small business".

Unfortunately, it's difficult to know what's stolen, or not, when one buys from a flea market, a advertisement in the classifieds, or e-Bay. There is no reason to believe that if it's for sale from a source other than a store-front that it's been stolen.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Ironic
a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2012 at 8:51 am

I always wondered why the lego sets my son wanted were always sold out. I doubt he will have to do anything but pay a fine but I hope he gets fired its hard to trust a person like that.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

Now why would a wealthy man do this crime? That is the question to
try and figure out the answer to. I think he must have some kind
of mental thing going on. Too bad really, and quite sad.

Like this comment
Posted by HaHa...People!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I had a great uncle who was a protestant minister, made a comfortable living, one wife, three nice children. One day when he was about 54 years old, he was caught shoplifting CHEWING GUM at a pharmacy. We humans can be really strange creatures. I mean, go figure!

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on May 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm

If you think shoplifting Legos is a bad, you should see what they charge for an implementation of their "enterprise solution". THAT's a crime.

Like this comment
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Perhaps, if convicted, his sentence will be to welcome us all to his personal San Carlos Legoland? In perpetuity?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Amazing what some people do to get their kicks.

1 person likes this
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Reminds me of the dramatically gifted but unfortunately troubled Winona Ryder.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

He was just trying to find the legos homes. They get lonely sitting on the store shelves. If you really want to embarrass Target, paste new bar codes on for twice the price and let people complain when they're charged too much!

Like this comment
Posted by DDee
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Past and more recent studies have told us what we prefer not to know... that a significant percentage of the 1.1% and people doing well above ordinary in our country (and elsewhere) are sociopaths.

There is a long long string of weird illegal behaviors on the top. This is one kind, Maddoff and JPMorgan Chase another... all reflect the same sense of self-entitlement, inability to reason ethically and absolute lack of empathy for others further down the food chain.

Furthermore, since they have done so well, they have convinced a large number of the rest of us that their way is the "correct and proper" way to get ahead and do well. They have tried to turn our entire country into a cult of Ayn Rand and done a pretty good job of it.

Like this comment
Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm

It's a good idea to scan the items you buy at Target—not so good to change the barcodes, though.

The last time I scanned the barcode for a Yoga Journal at Target, it scanned for $8.99 although the magazine was marked for $5.99. This was a month after I had bought an earlier issue of the magazine and only noticed later that my receipt said "$8.99." I returned to customer service and found that the only way they could refund my overpayment was to enter it at a "Sale price" of $5.99 and refund the excess. I complained to the clerk on duty as a supervisor, the only authority I could find on duty. I guess my complaint didn't go far, judging by my experience scanning another issue of the magazine a month later. Still marked $5.99 and selling at $8.99!

1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

There are some good & funny comments on this thread.

DDee - excellent post. Have you ever read The Psychopath Next Door? I took it w/a good dose of salt, but this story reminds me of a case that would be profiled in that book - the type of thing that seems unnecessary & leaves everyone scratching their head & feeling disgusted.

Maybe when he gets out, he can get a job w/Oracle.

Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Flimsy excuse.. if he wanted to check the barcode price, as he said, he could have just run it under those red scanners they have all over the place..

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Strange story, how can a multimillion guy end up into such a scamming scheme.

Mental illness? Desire of breaking the routine? Fake story against him? True mistake? A piece seems missing to the puzzle...

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm

James: "A piece seems missing to the puzzle"

A Lego piece?

1 person likes this
Posted by Lego Lover
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Isn't this story also a cry for making Lego stuff cheaper? I do love Lego but the prices Tommy suggested sound much more reasonable. I hope Lego gets the message :-)

Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on May 23, 2012 at 5:00 am

DDee - good post. I've done part time work for such an individual with his own business. It's the most demeaning experience of my life and would be debasing if I internalized it. The guy underpaid taxes as a lot of his business was and is in cash and doesn't pay for unemployment and all that. His withholding references indentures me to the job.

Sure enough, his sense of rectitude and entitlement are monumental and Ayn Rand/Atlas Shrugged is his Bible. He spends many happy hours listening to Rush on the radio. It's amusing that for both Libertarians and Communists, when the Millennium comes the State shall wither away...

Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2012 at 7:48 am

This strange story reminds of the uniformly terrible description of Meg Whitman by her former domestic employees. Despite being a billionaire, she was a notoriously cheapskate, underpaid loyal domestic employees, was fond of withholding salaries, argued about every penny and mistreated them to boot.

1 person likes this
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

You never know what goes on behind those Gated driveways, do you?

Like this comment
Posted by Go Figure
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

Not surprised, much like politics evokes a path for the scum of the earth rise to the top, In high tech business it's the same. This suit has cheated, lied, and manipulated his way to the top, and for that you are greatly rewarded in Silicon Valley.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Please don't make inaccurate generalizations about what it takes to be successful here. Silicon Valley does have scumbags in it, however, I know many hard working, ethical people who have risen by their own efforts and continue to add much to the local economy and community. By making these rash statements, you demean the majority, which is unfortunate and not very smart. The reason this story is so striking is that it is so unusual for someone with his profile to be anything but a good, earnest, smart contributor.

Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Come on people have some compassion - the guy's a VP at a billion dollar company living in a multi-million dollar house. The real factor behind this is not criminality and money making but mental illness. If you notice he is from Germany and has probably warped out living on his own. A feature of his illness is obviously that he developed some kind of obsession and fetish with Lego. This guy should categorically not be punished, he should be given urgent psychiatric help.

1 person likes this
Posted by Too bad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm

This vid shows what his house in San Carlos looks like: Web Link

He lived alone? He was driving a minivan.

I'll bet he tried it and when it worked and was easy, he got addicted. They needn't post his photo - he is not a violent criminal who is a danger to the public. Although, he can change his glasses and blend into society.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Re the mental illness defense

Nonsense--he was selling stolen property on E Bay for a huge profit.

If he committed fraud and theft in this matter imagine what fraud and theft he committed at SAP on the company and stockholders.

If convicted he will go go to prison for a long time and the SEC and IRS will be next in line for further prosecutions--not to mention the civil litigations.

Like this comment
Posted by Jan
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2012 at 9:33 pm

What about all of those who slip by and don't get caught!

Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on May 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Honestly I don't think you will find many people doing this ludicrous crime and "slipping by". He clearly didn't need to do this bizarre crime. Although he was making some money from it, if you compare his profits to what he will lose in employee benefits and salary, legal fees etc... it clearly wasn't in his interests. This guy did this because he developed some kind of compulsive disorder. He has now ruined his life, which is punishment enough, if think he needs a punishment. Incarcerating people who have developed mental illness is a waste of taxpayers money and in cases like this probably immoral. He needs treatment...

Like this comment
Posted by sdsesdewa
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm


1 person likes this
Posted by Spring Hill Voice
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:10 am

In Queensalnd Australia, this company SAP installed a payroll system for our state's health system.

It was an immense failure. Search "Queensland Health Payroll" for general details.

Thousands of employees underpaid, others overpiad with police knocking on their doors to claim back money.

All this has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars - and there was nothing wrong with the original payroll system. It was one of those things where the politicians secretly do a deal to spend huge amounts of our money on something we don't need without asking us what we think.

You know "Fox"? In Australia about 90% of ALL of our media is essentially run by Rupert Murdoch - he even controls what we see on the public service (ABC).

1 person likes this
Posted by sea reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2015 at 6:55 am

1. What an embarrassment
2. It is not uncommon, at Boeing an executive I worked for was fired for looking at porn material
3. Boeing CEO was asked to resign when he sent expecit emails how wonderful sex he had with one of his vp females at a boeing retreat.

So, let us forgive them and put them in charge of community service.

Integrity counts.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

QBB opens in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 12 comments | 4,120 views

Become a Master Gardener - Deadline Sept 21
By Laura Stec | 17 comments | 1,268 views

One more year
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 641 views

Attraction to a Person Outside Your Relationship
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 428 views


Registration now open

Sign up for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here