Target Claims Tech Exec Created His Own Bar Codes To Buy LEGOs On The Cheap

You’re never too old for LEGOs! But it is possible to take those beloved brightly colored building blocks to a bad place where you’re resorting to crime in the pursuit of said toy. Millionaire tech executive Thomas Langenbach has been arrested for allegedly creating bar codes and using them to buy LEGOs at Target for his own special discounted price, and then selling them.

Langenbach lists himself on LinkedIn as a vice president at Palos Altos, Calif. software giant SAP Labs Integration and Certification Center, reports NBC Bay Area. He’s been arrested in an the odd scheme involving the purchase of LEGO toys, after he was discovered because Target was keeping its eye on LEGO sales.

Authorities allege he’d make his own bar code stickers, switch the tags at the store and then cash out for steep discounts. The police say he was caught on Target’s security camera performing the bar code switcheroo, after the store had already been watching LEGO sales.

When police searched his multi-million dollar home, cops found hundreds of boxes of LEGOs stashed away. A deeper look into Langenbach unearthed an alleged sale of around 2,100 LEGO items since last April totaling about $30,000. There were also reportedly 32 pre-made barcode stickers in Langenbach’s car.

“This probably happens more often than you’d think,” said Mountain View police spokeswoman Liz Wylie. “But this is the first time we’ve ever had a case like this,” adding that LEGOs are “very popular and expensive.”

She only charged him with four burglaries totaling a worth of $1,000, while investigators try to figure out which items were likely stolen and which are legitimately his.

And, lest you doubt that, NBC Bay Area notes that a similar crime occurred in 2005, when a man was arrested in connection with using switched out bar code labels on LEGO boxes at Target. Very familiar, indeed.

*Thanks for the tip, Kendrick!

VP of Palo Alto’s SAP Arrested in LEGO Bar Code Scam [NBC Bay Area]


Edit Your Comment

  1. anime_runs_my_life says:

    Palo Alto. There is no Palos Altos.

    • nbs2 says:

      Si, hay una ciudad lammado Palos Altos. Esta in Mexico, en el estado de Guerrero.

      Funny enough, I switched to touch typing to take care of something else, and my fingers began to translate the spanish into english. Now I know my fingers can’t order any free pizzas (I looked away and ended up typing, “Mexico, en the state of,” before I looked back).

    • wickedpixel says:

      I’m guessing it was actually Los Altos

    • carlathecommander says:

      And it’s Target, not How would he be able to stick a new bar code on an item that hadn’t been shipped to him yet? hehe

    • chefboyardee says:

      Also, “arrested in an the odd scheme” has does is too many words.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    The guy is a millionaire, why the heck did he need to run a scam to sell Lego sets?

    I love me some Lego but I don’t buy much due to the price. I get downright giddy though when I score some good clearance sets on Amazon or at (you guessed it) Target. I found some decent sets marked down 50 PERCENT there not too long ago. Score!

    • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

      “The guy is a millionaire, why the heck did he need to run a scam to sell Lego sets?”

      The same reason spoiled rich kids shoplift: for the thrill.

      • FatLynn says:

        This actually strikes me as some sort of hoarding or OCD.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          That’s what I was thinking, except he’s selling some of them. Hoarders don’t typically part with any of their possessions.

          • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

            One of my old friends loves LEGO blocks, and buys them by the pallet. Originally, he’d just sell the pieces he didn’t intend to use for his own projects, but now he’s got a pretty good business going.

            In the serious-about-LEGO crowds, it is not uncommon to buy an entire $50 set just for the sake of a few rare pieces–translucent and certain angled slopes are always popular–and there are entire online markets where you can buy specific pieces in bulk.

    • CanadianDominic says:

      I think the OP also “found” some decent sets “marked down” 50% too. That’s what slipped him up though. Too many “air quotes” with the cashier when checking out.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      Because the rich don’t feel like they have to play by the rules that govern the commoners.

      • incident_man says:

        +1 zillion

      • StarKillerX says:

        Yeah, because only rich people are thieving douchebags right….. oh wait!

        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          Dunno man, non-rich thieves would probably just, you know, take them off the shelves and run outright.

      • Scooby111 says:

        Obviously there are no poor or middle class shoplifter of criminals right? Your comment reveals your bias and lack of critical thought.

        Some people feel entitled to what other people own. The feeling crosses all racial, ethnic, sexual, and economic boundaries.

  3. CanadianDominic says:

    With home printing become so easy, and professional looking, I wonder if someone could do this on a smaller scale and get by without notice.

    Knocking 30$ off a lawnmower wouldn’t be that hard. Sure its wrong and illegal, Im just surprised this isn’t more widespread. Too much effort, maybe?

    • catskyfire says:

      The problem is usually greed. If someone is successful at small scams, they start wanting more. Eventually, they may even feel that they are too awesome to get caught as they escalate.

    • qwickone says:

      maybe it is widespread and no one has caught on or announced anything publicly?

      also, do you just use the barcode of something else that’s already in their system? doesn’t the register show the name and description of the item in addition to the price? wouldn’t it say LEGO 24 pc or LEGO 1000 pc?

      • CanadianDominic says:

        This seems likely. Why would any retailer want to publicize something like this? Theres no gain (except maybe in a situation like this where the criminal is caught).

        Often when I look at my receipts from Lowes, Walmart, Target, etc, often the product descriptions are pretty vague.

        By just using SIMILAR products, I doubt anyone would notice. Your savings over-time would be significant. More so if you were re-selling the products and/or operating at multiple stores over a long period of time. (ie. A 50$ discount at Walmart one week, 40$ discount at Lowes next week; 40$ discount at Target the following week, 65$ discount at Home Depot next week, etc)

    • IphtashuFitz says:

      Actually knocking $30 off a lawnmower would be much more difficult than what this guy did.

      Barcodes are simply a number that matches an entry in the stores inventory system. When a cash register scans the barcode it simply does a lookup in the database of the number and retrieves the price for the item. When an item is on sale the price in the database is updated, each individual item doesn’t get a new barcode.

      What this guy apparently did was figure out what barcodes apply to cheaper Lego kits then put those barcodes on more expensive Lego products.

      To get $30 off a lawnmower you would have to find a store that sells two of the same brand of lawn mower, and one that’s $30 cheaper than the other. Then you take the barcode from the cheaper one and stick it on the more expensive one. If you used a barcode from a different brand of lawnmower then the cashier would likely catch it when it was rung up. The register would say that the barcode is for a Craftsman lawnmower when you’re trying to purchase a Toro lawnmower, and they’d be much more likely to catch that than a 500 piece Star Wars lego set that’s rung up as a 300 piece World War II lego set or something like that.

      • CanadianDominic says:

        You’re over complicating the scam. I look up TORO lawnmower products, in your example, and buy the SUPER ULTRA MODEL at 499$, but I print up stickers for the REGULAR OKAY MODEL for 399$.

        The register SHOULD read something like TORO LWNMWR 20″ SUM …. 499$…but since I swapped out the stickers now it reads TORO LWNMWR 20″ ROKM … 399$…

        I doubt the cashier would notice on a busy Saturday at Lowes, especially if you had a bunch of other stuff in your basket at the same time. Im not saying its a GREAT SCAM, or that I’d do it, just that it doesnt seem like it would be that difficult to pull off.

        • KyBash says:

          When I bought a lawn mower last year, they had to also scan the serial number. I don’t know if the system was sophisticated enough to match the serial number to the UPC, but there’s just a chance that some of them do.

          In any case, changing the code that way immediately voids the warranty — you always have to provide a copy of the sales slip, and if it doesn’t match, you’re SOL.

          I’m not saying people don’t do it . . .

    • ZachPA says:

      You don’t hear about this too much, but it does go on. Brain dead checkers at Walmart don’t usually stop to look that the $399 Playstation3 just rung up as a $199 Wii. Oddly enough, this is a theft in which you must engage the checker. Usually a thief wants as little human contact as possible, but the self-check lines are much more highly monitored, plus each item is weighed after it’s scanned so the system knows you put on the belt what you scanned and not something else. I see a future with human-checked items being weighed and kicked out for being over- or underweight.

    • pythonspam says:

      Because the barcode/SKU still has to be in the company’s POS system with an associated price.
      It’s not like you can print up a barcode contains only the following information . It still takes a lot of research and complexity to happen to make a barcode that matches a description (that the cashier will not question, “LEGO SPACE ADVTR”) and a price not so ludicrous so that the cashier would question it. Also, now, you can’t just go through a self-checkout to skip a question-asking cashier; the system knows how much the item should weigh from the SKU so you can’t just swap a $0.50 item barcode on a $18 set.

  4. Starrion says:

    This guy just threw away a high paying career for $30K.


    What is wrong with people?

  5. slyabney says:

    I’m even more impressed he was doing this on!

    Article: Millionaire tech executive Thomas Langenbach has been arrested for allegedly creating bar codes and using them to buy Legos on for his own special discounted price, and then selling them.

    How was he changing the bar codes on their website?

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      I clicked on the full consumerist article only to find this out. Of course then I saw it was a typo. I wonder if it was on purpose to confuse me and get me to click…

    • KishuT says:

      MB always has to add one or more mistake to her posts, guess this was it for this post.

  6. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    If only the cops had been barefoot. They would not have made it very far into the house. Foiled by footwear.

  7. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Amateur. I’d make a fake bar code for a 2012 Ferrari 458.

    “Okay, that’ll be…eight dollars and fifty cents?”

    *hands the guy a ten*

    “Here you are, my good man. Keep the change.”

  8. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Seems like an easy enough scheme but the premediation seems to go above kleptomania… Why would a millionaire be stealing like that? Is he just that type of person? If so I hope SAP drops him fast, there is no telling what he has pulled to get where he is.

  9. Buckus says:

    Seems curious why someone who is VP of a large company and probably raking in at least six figures would do something like this.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    My parents finally had enough and sent all my old legos to me. It has been a month of Christmas at my house. SOCITED!

    It’s apparently turned to my crack, and I am now considering buying some of the Legos sets I keep looking at and never buying.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      LOL I have an online buddy who is a complete LEGOmaniac. He has some of the coolest looking constructions you’ll ever see. Goes to all the conventions, etc. Some of the pictures he’s posted from those are amazing.

    • LightningUsagi says:

      I have a collection of minifigs…but my bf is a total SW Lego junkie. He had to buy new furniture and rearrange his living room to accomodate them all. And I got thrown out of the bedroom once for accidentally hitting the huge Lego Millenium Falcon on his nightstand in the midst of adult time. The surest way to piss him off is to work on a set he’s not done building yet.

      I often ask myself when I made the decision to date a 12-year-old 35-year-old man.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Fun Fact: Men never pass the age of 12.

        I joked once that the reason men don’t menstrate is that none of them have actually reached that age yet.

  11. Blueskylaw says:

    A millionaire thief? Next thing you’ll be telling me is
    that Wall Street is crooked. What am I to believe?

    • CanadianDominic says:

      The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

      • Firethorn says:

        I think the shock is the petty scale of it. Most millionaires, if they’re going to be stealing, are going to be stealing things in the millions, or at least thousands, not hundreds.

  12. The Twilight Clone says:

    I’ve gone thru a number of attacks of Lego nostalgia in which I’ve bought sets I coveted as a child. Most of them are classic space sets from 1978 – 1985. I spent a good deal of money on ebay, but unlike much of the crap I’ve bought on ebay, these purchases were not a bad investment.

  13. Cat says:

    I always use my K-Put Price-Is-Rite Stamp Gun.

  14. CanadianDominic says:

    I make my own LEGO barcodes at home.

  15. Chmeeee says:

    I used to work at a certain discount clothing store where the clearance items just had a new barcode sticker stuck over top of the old barcode on the hang tag. A lot of customers used to try and move a sticker onto an item that was not on clearance and think we wouldn’t notice. I’d pick it up before I even scanned the item when the first digits on the tag were for women’s shoes and the item was a $500 blazer.

    • elangomatt says:

      Back in my retail days, all of the price stickers we used had little slits cut in the stickers to prevent people from doing that sort of thing. If someone tried to peel off the sticker it was very likely that they’d accidentally tear it instead of getting it off cleanly because of the slits. Simple solution but actually pretty effective.

      • KyBash says:

        Not so simple — an awful lot of research and testing went into figuring out the optimum number of slits and their length. They had to come off the pricing gun properly 99.5% of the time while having the highest possible number of tears when being removed. iirc, the cost, by several manufacturers and retailers, totaled into eight figures.

  16. HammRadio says:

    Putumayo is about to have the sale of the century. Nothing over ninety-nine cents.

  17. Browncoat says:

    What a blockhead!

  18. superml says:

    I wish I had that much Lego.

  19. MonkeyMonk says:

    True Story: A found a large unopened Lego Wild West set at a tag sale a few months ago for $5.00 and bought it for my son. After we brought it home he immediately ripped it open and started playing with it.

    That night I looked it up on Google and saw it was retailing as a collectible on Amazon in the range of $300-$400. Ouch.

    • rework says:

      Don’t feel too bad about that. Asking prices on Amazon are rarely representative of the real value of a collectible. They tend to be massively overpriced by sellers fishing for a sucker. I’m sure the set was well worth the $5, but probably nowhere close to $300-400.

  20. PLATTWORX says:

    In any modern store, you are on video from the moment you pull in the parking lot. I have never understood why people are so stupid as to shoplift (by looking for someone around them and sliding an item into a bag or purse with a damn camera overhead taping) or change bar codes in this case. Do you really think the store can’t see every inch of it’s selling floor from the security room? Really?

    • E. Zachary Knight says:

      Yeah, most modern stores have the entire floor pretty covered. I have been to some older building where the security cameras are not quite up to par and a skilled observer can tell where the blind spots are.

    • SteveZim1017 says:

      I think they are just playing the odds. In a store like Target there can be hundreds of people in the store at any time, sure you might be on the camera, but the odds of the handful of security people watching you in particular at any given moment are pretty low.

  21. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    Pale Altoids?

  22. HomerSimpson says:

    Sounds like most of you are envious of teh rich Lego stealer. Inciting class warfare? Tsk tsk tsk!

  23. oloranya says:

    This is a variation on a common retail scam. Usually the thieves just take the barcode off of one box (either cutting it off when it’s printed on the box, or peeling off a sticker) for a cheaper item and stick it to the more expensive one. It’s an easy scam to pull when the cashier isn’t paying attention and the register has vague descriptions (like FITTING for every piece of pvc in the store *eyeroll*).

  24. Buzz says:

    I wonder if did it for Eggo’s also. Then he could tell the cops “Lego my Eggo”.