Thomas 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 for comment.