It's not a surprise these days to see people using their smartphones to scan bar codes; after all, businesses large and small use QR codes and bar codes to digitally package hidden content, product information like pricing, or even contests and sweepstakes within those black-and-white boxes. With scanning being so commonplace, nothing seemed out of the ordinary when Thomas Langenbach, the vice president of SAP -- a top maker of business management software solutions based in Palo Alto, Calif. -- was found scanning boxes upon boxes of Lego toys before purchasing them.
Little did anyone know, the 47-year-old Langenbach was actually engaged in a giant scam. Allegedly, Langenbach had been covering the store's barcodes with his own, so when he would bring the boxes up to the register, the clerk would scan the boxes but Langenbach would pay a heavily-discounted price. For example, this tag swapping allowed him to buy a Millennium Falcon box of Legos worth $279 for just $49. The store clerks were never the wiser.
But Langenbach's scheme didn't end there. Once he bought the discounted Lego boxes, the SAP executive would take to eBay (under the name tomsbrickyard) and sell the items. Langenbach reportedly sold more than 2,000 items on eBay, raking in about $30,000.
Even though several Target stores found Langenbach's Lego purchases to be suspicious, nothing was truly done about it until May 8, when Langenbach entered a local Target store in Cupertino and was recognized by the store's security, and immediately put under surveillance. Cameras and security personnel watched as Langenbach walked up to the register and covered the store's bar codes with his own. When he walked out without paying the full price, security nabbed Langenbach before he could exit the store and called the police.
Langenbach was arrested and charged with stealing seven boxes of Lego toys, worth roughly $1,000. He posted $10,000 bail the same day. He will be arraigned today (Tuesday) at the Santa Clara County Court on four felony counts of burglary.
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Police have already searched Langenbach's home in San Carlos, only to find hundreds of Lego boxes stashed, with all of the individual bricks arranged according to color, size and style. After searching his car, police found eight Ziploc bags containing dozens of bar code stickers in his car.
In his house, we found hundreds of boxes of unopened Lego sets, said Liz Wylie, an officer with the Mountain View Police Department. He sold 2,100 items in just over a year on eBay, and made $30,000. The motive was clearly money. Why does he want the money? I don't know. I can think of a million different possible scenarios. For some people it's boredom. For some it's a compulsive thing.
Langenbach, who has been working with SAP since 1988, has a degree in computer science and business administration from Berufsakademie Mannheim University in Mannheim, Germany. Police believe he made the bar codes using his own software skills.