News

Former tech executive takes plea deal in LEGO scam

He switched barcodes on products at local Target stores to get cheaper prices

A former vice president of a Palo Alto software firm took a plea deal Monday, July 29, for one felony commercial burglary charge for pasting fraudulent barcodes on LEGO toys at local Target stores, Duffy Magilligan, Santa Clara County deputy district attorney, said.

Langenbach, 48, was originally charged with four counts of commercial burglary, which could have netted him up to five years in prison. Instead, he will be sentenced to three years probation and six months in custody. Of that, 30 days will be spent in county jail and 150 days will require an ankle monitor. He will also pay restitution for the items, which were valued at $345, Magilligan said.

Langenbach went into four Target stores on three different dates and purchased the toys at greatly lowered prices. To get the lower prices, he switched the barcode tags with ones he created on his computer, which were scanned at the register, according to a criminal complaint by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.

He had been "ticket switching" LEGO boxes since April 20, 2012, at the Mountain View, Cupertino and Target stores and another Target near his San Carlos home, according to police.

Target obtained surveillance footage of Langenbach making the switches. He attracted the attention of Target's security after the first case in Cupertino, Mountain View Police spokeswoman Liz Wylie said at the time. The popular, expensive toys are targeted for thefts, and the stores keep a close watch on the products, conducting daily inventories.

On April 20, 2012, Langenbach 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 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 switched labels on two LEGO products at the store near his home, valued at $89.99 and $279.98 on April 26, 2012. On May 1 of that year, 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, 2012, a loss-prevention officer immediately recognized him and observed Langenbach putting barcodes on three items at Target, Inc., 555 Showers Drive, Mountain View, Wylie said.

Langenbach 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. Mountain View police arrested him at the store at about 3:45 p.m.

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.

Officers 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.

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 sold 2,100 items beginning April 17, 2011. He 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. But Langenbach was not charged for the sales of the items because investigators could not prove they were fraudulently purchased, Magilligan said.

Langenbach will be sentenced on Sept. 5. His attorney could not be reached.

A previous version of this story referred to Langenbach as a current vice president at SAP Labs, LLC. Langenbach has not been employed at the company since September of 2012, according to a spokesman.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by fed up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:00 am

This is outrageous. Langenbach methodically stole (undepaid for) and resold merchandise for years. Just because he can afford a good lawyer should not keep him out of prison and prevent him from paying appropriate restitution.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:05 am

Is he still a VP at SAP? Does the company have any comments about their employee's personal lives?


Like this comment
Posted by Colin
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

He obviously didn't need the money gained from selling the Lego sets. He just had a compulsion to steal and to game the system. I'm sure a shrink would have a lovely time figuring out (along with Langenbach) where the motivation came from.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:01 am

And to think, I pay full price and have an hourly paid position! Perhaps he should pay restitution by putting money into schools and homeless shelters for the 5 year sentence.


Like this comment
Posted by cid young
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:26 am

And, had he been African American, he would have served 5 years, instead of a slap on the knuckles.
Sheeze!


4 people like this
Posted by Klepto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm

The guy must have had a bad childhood, or some other excuse that makes it not his fault


Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm

DDA Duffy Magilligan: your plea deal hardly inspires confidence in the calibration of our scales of justice.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Oddly I find myself in agreement with just about all the statements made until this point.

These cases where "pillars" or our society are caught in some criminal enterprise just for the fun of it have a real meaning, as well as a symbolic meaning.

In Sweden they make the punishment fit the crime as well as the stature of the individual. If someone driving a Ferrari and speeding is cited, they pay a fine proportional to their worth ... that is, they pay more than the average person, because to pay the same is negligible to them.

Here we seem to do the exact opposite, and the morally repugnant thing, that is not only to punish the weak and poor more, but they are damn lucky if they don't get beat up and tased at the same time.

I would not be averse to someone finding out where this person works or hangs our personally and emailing the company or institution expressing disgust and withholding any business and perhaps threatening a demonstration.

Somehow we the people have to incentivize our government towards the actual fair execution of justice and putting our legal system back on track. This decision should be a big fat red flag to all of us that not only is something wrong with our legal system, but that this particular case is the poster child.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Kind of odd that somehow Langenbach is all we get of this person's name?
What is his full name ... and how about a picture of him.
Maybe the rest of us would like to avoid being stung or ripped off by him as well.
Can we get a full name and picture of "Langenbach" ???

Oh, by the way, this person is no longer employed by SAP ... so, where is he now?


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Full name is Thomas Langenbach. The Mercury-News has his mug shot: Web Link
He looks like that creepy guy in the TV show LOST. Even though he was only charged with 4 crimes, the cops did find hundreds of LEGO sets in his $2 million dollar house.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Hey Resident ... LOL, you are right,
Thomas Langenbach looks like the character Benjamin Linus in LOST,
and he has the psychopathic personality to boot.
He'll certainly never get into heaven, or whatever that was at the end of the show.


Like this comment
Posted by Intersting
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I find this statement interesting, "At the time of his arrest, 193 items were for sale. Most were LEGO sets, according to court papers. But Langenbach was not charged for the sales of the items because investigators could not prove they were fraudulently purchased, Magilligan said."

I am curious if the "investigator" took the time to even conduct a search of his computer. Yes, time consuming but if he is printing labels in 2011 and "sold 2,100 items beginning April 17, 2011" it does not take that much for a jury to see that this was a criminal for a long time before this. "He sold about $30,000 in merchandise on the eBay;" therefore, if the investigator did not do the extra leg work I hope he had at least forwarded the case to the IRS to see if Mr Langenbach at least claimed taxes on his earnings. I bet not.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Yeah, certainly a far cry from any police activity we see on TV shows, huh?


Like this comment
Posted by Eggo on Face-oh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Leggo my Eggo!

Dude makes fat stacks, but has to steal for his jollies, gets caught.

Drag his name thru the mud enough for a penalty, then don't waste resources on him that the rest of the system needs. Take the plea. The freaks life is over as he knows it anyway.

Think the resume entry of SAP VP means jack right now? Imagine the next interview....


Like this comment
Posted by NycGuy
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm

He paid with his credit card - brilliant.


Like this comment
Posted by headbussa
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 9, 2013 at 1:34 am

Ok what we do know is that this guy has some issues. BUT I think between all these terrorist attacks, murderers and rapes this is a refreshing story.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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