Thieves caught with £240,000 in stolen Lego, as black market booms

12 April 2024, 09:19

Suspected thieves were caught with £240,000 in stolen Lego
Suspected thieves were caught with £240,000 in stolen Lego. Picture: Alamy/California Highway Patrol

By Kit Heren

Suspected thieves have been caught with around £240,000 in stolen Lego to be sold on a booming black market for the toys.

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The Lego thieves, from California, were arrested and charged with organised retail theft, grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The California Highway Patrol named the suspects as 44-year-old Jeremy Johnson, 39-year-old Marta Hardt, 47-year-old Chung-Pei Yu, and 35-year-old Shen Li.

Police accused them of stealing limited edition Lego sets from big shops like Target, Home Depot and Lowe's.

Officers think that two of the gang stole from the stores, and the others sold them on at "seemingly legitimate businesses, swap meets, or online."

Read more: Foreign gangs 'exploiting' Brits to steal from high streets as shop thefts soar by 50% in London

Read more: Retailers losing £3.5m per day in stolen goods amid shop theft surge as cost of living crisis bites

Some of the Lego officers found
Some of the Lego officers found. Picture: California Highway Patrol

The Lego sets were found stashed in four separate houses.

The value of the Lego found by police is $300,000, or around £240,000.

The California Highway Patrol said that buyers of the Lego "may or may not be aware that the products they are purchasing were stolen as part of an organized retail crime operation."

Lego is targeted by some shoplifters because it can be sold on relatively easily, and limited edition sets are valued highly.

It also has a relatively high proportion of adult fans, who have disposable income to spend on sets.

Some of the Lego officers found
Some of the Lego officers found. Picture: California Highway Patrol

Lego fan Chris Malloy told CBS News in 2021: "Unlike a lot of products, it doesn’t have serial numbers or anything.

"So it’s a very easy product for thieves to target and then find a ready market for that to be sold."

Bob Mazza, a toy shop worker, said Lego was one of the most popular items on the market,

"If somebody is stealing them, they’re probably stealing them to resell, not collect them because it’s like anything hot that would be easy to get rid of," he told a local news outlet. "Anybody would buy them from you.'