Lego thefts across Southern California leave police trying to piece together clues

Believe it or not, the Lego sets and figurines collecting dust in your childhood bedroom could fetch a pretty penny.

So pretty, in fact, that two suspects have allegedly stolen more than $100,000 in Lego merchandise from six Bricks & Minifigs stores across Southern California.

The Lego reseller, which stocks mini figures, accessories and bricks, has more than 100 outlets across the U.S.

The Riverside store was the first one burglarized, with the suspects hitting it April 3, followed by Ontario on April 12, Whittier on May 3, Irvine on May 9 and the Costa Mesa and Fullerton locations on June 1, Whittier store owner Katie Leuschner said.

The thieves stole about $10,000 in merchandise from her outlet, said the 44-year-old Whittier resident, who has been running the store with her husband, Tim, for the last year. They've witnessed people snatching a mini figurine or two and running out of the store, but nothing compared to what happened May 3.

The two men, who appear to be the suspects recorded on surveillance videos burglarizing the other Bricks & Minifigs stores, showed up at the Whittier store in the early morning hours. As at the other stores, they worked as a team, with one serving as a getaway driver in a blue car, she said.

The other male, who usually wears a face mask, hoodie and baseball cap, typically uses a tool to break the glass at the store's entrance before rolling through the store with a trash bag to collect the figurines, Leuschner said.

Read more: Why would anyone steal $300,000 in Lego sets? There's a booming black market

"We're a specialty store for people trying to find the Lego set from when they were younger — the things that we do have can't be easily replenished," Leuschner said. "They're not stealing big box sets. They're stealing mini figures, and those individual guys go for $500 to $600 apiece, so they're easily stolen and resold for a quick profit."

After taking several figurines from the Whittier store, she said, the man got spooked when he looked up for a second, causing the headlight he was wearing to shine on a Batman display in the store. The light cast two giant shadows of Batman on the wall, and the man jumped up and ran out.

"That's why we say Batman saved the day," she added.

The series of burglaries across Southern California comes amid what Inside Edition has deemed a national "Lego Larceny," as stores in Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Green Bay, Wis., have been hit with similar thefts.

A black market for Lego items has emerged, with Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon fetching $1,000 to $4,000, according to the website Work + Money.

Leuschner said that along with merchandise losses, the stores also have had to repair their glass windows and doors and pay for more security, including adding alarms, metal security gates and a film to go on the glass to make it sturdier.

Read more: Lego asks Murrieta Police Department to stop using company's toy heads in mug shots

In a group chat, she and the other Southern California store owners have been warning each other about the thefts so that they can be on the lookout.

"Because of that, the Costa Mesa store got a special ADT film that was put on all of their glass so it was harder to break," she said. One of the suspected thieves ended up breaking the glass, she said, but didn't go into the store.

Leuschner and the other store owners have filed police reports but haven't heard back yet on whether any suspects have been identified or arrests made.

"There are other stores that haven’t been hit yet, but they know [they're] gonna be the next target," she said. "We're all independently owned and just trying to raise families, and you've got these people coming in making it harder for the rest of the community."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.