Great Lego Caper

By  | 

A 40-year-old Reno man is behind bars, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of a toy geared toward the 6-and-up crowd: Lego.
To haul away the evidence, agents working for the U.S. Postal
Inspector said they had to back a 20-foot truck to William
Swanberg's northern Nevada home to cart away mountains of the
multicolored bricks.
Swanberg was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Hillsboro, a
Portland suburb, which charged him with stealing Legos from Target
stores in Oregon. Target estimates Swanberg stole and resold on the
Internet up to $200,000 of the brick sets pilfered from their
stores in Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California.
When no one was looking, Swanberg switched the bar codes on Lego
boxes, replacing an expensive one with a cheaper label, said
Detective Troy Dolyniuk, a member of the Washington County fraud
and identity theft enforcement team.
Target officials contacted police after noticing the same
pattern at their stores in the five western states. A Target
security guard stopped Swanberg at a Portland-area store on Nov.
17, after he bought 10 boxes of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon
In his parked car, detectives found 56 of the Star Wars set,
valued at $99 each, as well as 27 other Lego sets. In a laptop
found inside Swanberg's car, investigators also found the addresses
of numerous Target stores in the Portland area, their locations
carefully plotted on a mapping software.
Records of the Lego collector's Web site, Bricklink.Com, show
that Swanberg has sold nearly $600,000 worth of Legos since 2002,
said Dolyniuk.
Attempts to reach Swanberg at the Washington County jail, where
he is being held on $250,000 bail, were unsuccessful. It's unknown
at this time if he has retained an attorney.
Lego's Danish founder Ole Kirk Christiansen named the famous
bricks in 1934 by fusing two Danish words, "leg" and "godt"
meaning "play well."
Today, according to the company's Web site, children across the
world spend 5 billion hours every year playing with Lego bricks,
available in 90 different colors. The bricks have long transcended
its initial purpose as just a toy and - like Crayola Crayons or
Barbie - has now become a cultural symbol. There are Web sites for
Lego collectors and on eBay, rare Lego sets can sometimes fetch