French authorities make arrests in Lego heist and claim there could be an international gang.
French police are investigating an international gang of Lego bandits stealing high-value sets and selling them for high ticket prices. Three of these people, all from Poland, were arrested in 2020. A woman and two men, who were in the middle of stealing Legos from a shop in Yvelines, near Paris, were taken into custody, and according to authorities, they revealed they are part of an international gang.
French law enforcement authorities are now warning shops and families of the potential for a Lego gang. Le Parisien, an investigator looking into this conspiracy, said, “The Lego community isn’t just made up of children. There are numerous adults who play with it; there are swaps and sales on the internet. We’ve also had people complaining their homes have been broken into and Lego stolen.”
Some believe there is a black market for bricks. Tommy Williamson, who manages bricknerd.com, said that while Legos have never been inexpensive, they’ve become even more valuable in the past fifteen years. Lego specialist Gerben van IJken, agreed, and said, “Well, (it’s) very difficult to prove that there’s a black market. However, there is an enormous amount of collectors out there who are missing out on certain sets right now and are willing to pay a lot of money for these sets.”
Peter Simpson, a Portland police officer doesn’t believe that there is a huge demand, at least in the Portland area. He said, “I would not say that we have a large black market for plastic bricks. But like in any big city, there are always people willing to buy discounted goods without asking any questions.”
Those arrested in France had been initially reported to authorities in November 2019 and again in February 2020. Investigators said they would book into a hotel in Paris and target toy stores across the city. Then, they would return to Poland with their stolen loot and resell it.
Stores in Victoria and New South Wales, Australia, have also been targeted in recent years. In 2014, four people were arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, for the same crime. Similar incidents were also reported in 2017 when 2,000 sets bound for children’s hospitals and charities in the U.K. were stolen. The following year, a U.S. resident’s 14-year-old collection was taken.
Specialist van Ijken, said that sales have doubled on the French eBay. He said, “Especially during the lockdown period, as we are in right now – it’s still extremely popular. Investing in these pieces isn’t new but this niche market has reached new heights with the pandemic. People have more time at home because of the health restrictions and the game market has exploded. Another reason for the explosion in Lego sales is that people over the last eight years have discovered the huge resale value of sets online.”
“We consider those people scumbags,” Williamson said of those involved in taking and reselling. “Those people who are doing that tend to have large collections and stores to fund their hobbies, but they give us a bad name. We know the people doing this tend to be fans, but they’re also fans of the dark side.”