SAP Palo Alto vice president arrested for LEGO scam

Man allegedly switched barcodes on products at Mountain View, Cupertino 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 Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2012 at 10:14 am

Just when you thought you've read it all. These guys think they are just so smart. He's probably been doing this all over town. And then he denies he was actually doing it to steal. He will never be convinced he's guilty. And he probably won't get any jail time. He should apply for a job in the public sector

Like this comment
Posted by Public Sector Don
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

Actually, us little people in the public sector are the honest one's - It seems to me that it is the 'best and brightest' in the business world who think they are entitled to whatever they want. No matter what.

Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2012 at 11:47 am

$139 for plastic LEGO toys?

They arrested the wrong people.

Like this comment
Posted by Litsa
a resident of North Whisman
on May 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment]

Like this comment
Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Gemello
on May 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm

As an average citizen, I could never think of doing something like this. And that explains why I will never be a leader on anything. Cheating and thievery is not part of my blood and many average citizens don't think of this kind of creative idea to rip off someone. And this is where the corporate execs excel in ripping millions and billions of consumers. Isn't it interesting that the execs put over priced barcodes on their products when they sell them to us even though the products are made for few pennies on the dollar in China, Vietnam, India, Maccau,Bangladesh,Thailand,etc..

Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I hope he gets the maximum sentence. [Post removed due to disrespectful comment]

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Truly mind-boggling that anyone would risk a well-paying job like his for a few thousand dollars' worth of Legos fenced on eBay. If he did do it -- he is innocent until proven otherwise -- I wonder what his motives were.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I wish there was a "like" button for USA's comment :) My kids had to settle for the cheap imitation legos that didn't click together so well.

Well of all the sick things I read about in the news, stealing a few Legos for kicks or whatever seems relatively harmless. Yes, he should be punished for stealing from local businesses. His 'kicks" came out of the pockets of some good hard working people - and all of us who have to pay a little extra for everything to compensate for shoplifters and thieves. I hope the confiscated Legos get donated to kids whose families cannot afford them.

Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

I hate to sound like a bleeding heart liberal, but this guy does not belong in jail. He obviously has some sort of mental illness. Why else would a successful executive risk his career and lifestyle to save a few bucks on Legos. Put him on probation and send him to a shrink, every day, on his dime, not the taxpayers.

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

Why else? Greed. And I doubt this is the only think he's done.

It's funny that when a "successful executive" rips of a Target, you label him with a mental illness, but when a low-wage worker does it, they are common criminals.

Like this comment
Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Exactly Ned. If this guy was Mexican, this post would be littered with calls for deportation and references to the Day Worker Center.

I don't feel sorry for this man. I see it as a prime example of one of the biggest problems facing this country. No matter how much some have, they still want more and they're willing to do anything to get it.

Like this comment
Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on May 23, 2012 at 2:22 pm

@Anon: "Well of all the sick things I read about in the news, stealing a few Legos for kicks or whatever seems relatively harmless."

Actually, what is worrisome is the sense of ethics this wealthy VP of the company brings to the workplace. If he practices petty thievery in his private life, just think how he must conduct himself at his job. It makes you wonder how he got his wealth.

Like this comment
Posted by GSB
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I agree with Ned. If this were a poor kid stealing, throw the kid in jail. Wealthy exec or celebrity, must be a mental issue.


Like this comment
Posted by Seer Clearly
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

I really wonder at the mental capacity of some of the View's readers. The most objectionable comment came from "Observer" who mindlessly parroted Fox News' 24x7 mantra that public sector workers are morally bankrupt. Thank goodness Don set him straight. If you have regular contact with public sector workers, you'd know they are overworked, underpaid, and largely do it for the love of service - service which Observer apparently doesn't appreciate or deserve. In our daily lives we rarely get to see that service personally, but how quick we are to complain when it's not there!

Then there was the legion of people who jumped on Greg for suggesting that Thomas get mental help. Thomas' actions are inexplicable. His thievery could not possibly have increased his wealth much. In other words, his actions were that of a crazy person. Kudos to Greg for sharing his thoughts. So many of you are so obsessed with your envy of Thomas and the desire to punish someone for getting away with something you'd like to be doing that you forget that motivation is a big part of understanding a crime. We live in a sick society where punishment is more important than prevention of crime - and you can't prevent a crime if you are only looking for someone to punish; in fact, one could argue that you create crime by wanting to have someone to punish.

For shame.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora22
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Mentally ill? Certainly. Criminal? Absolutely! This guy has received much from our society, but gives back this? He needs to go to jail for the maximum, then be released with required community service. Maybe he can relearn how to enjoy Legos by sharing his love of them with mental patients or brain-damaged adults (keep him away from kids, please).

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

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,494 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 992 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 499 views