'Not guilty' plea in LEGO-theft case | August 17, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - August 17, 2012

'Not guilty' plea in LEGO-theft case

by Sue Dremann

A Palo Alto software company executive accused of switching barcodes on the tags of LEGO toys at a Mountain View store rejected a plea bargain and pleaded not guilty in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto on Tuesday morning, Aug. 14.

Mountain View police arrested Thomas Langenbach, 47, the vice president of Palo Alto software firm SAP Labs, LLC, on May 8. He was charged with four felony-burglary counts for allegedly pasting fraudulent barcodes on LEGO toys at local Target stores. Loss-prevention officers at the Mountain View Target, located at 555 Showers Dr., detained him when he purchased a LEGO set that he allegedly labeled with a fraudulent barcode.

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

Police found hundreds of unopened LEGO sets — many special-edition items — at his gated, multimillion-dollar home, according to court papers. Items from the three 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. There were also shipping boxes in the home. Police say he had an eBay account, through which he has sold 2,100 items since April 17, 2011.

Mountain View police spokeswoman Liz Wylie previously said Langenbach sold about $30,000 in merchandise on an 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.

He is charged with four counts of second-degree burglary — entering with intent to commit theft — for the Mountain View and Cupertino thefts. The popular, expensive LEGO toys a target for thefts, and Target stores keep a close watch on the products, conducting daily inventories, Wylie said.

Langenbach told police that he did not intend to steal the items, according to court papers. He said that he had seen a video on YouTube about how to make fake barcodes to get cheaper toys. 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.

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.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson has said although the thefts for which Langenbach 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 them assembled and staged for photographing — led the DA's office to file the felony charges, she said. If convicted on all current counts, he could receive a maximum five-year sentence.

Langenbach's attorney, Thomas Greenberg, said he could not comment at this time on his client's decision not to take a plea deal.


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