Seattle police bust lucrative Lego trafficking scheme

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Karen Ducey/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Karen Ducey/Reuters

Police in Seattle went undercover to break open what they said was a trafficking ring involving the sale of expensive stolen goods: Lego, taken from an Amazon store.

Saying they had seized 171 sets, police released a picture showing the boxes stacked together.

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The accused store owner denied knowingly selling stolen goods, protested against the picture and said he would fight the resultant charges.

According to one expert, Lego theft and trafficking has become a major concern.

RJ Coughlin, a director at Brickcon, a convention for adult Lego enthusiasts, told Fox 13 Seattle Lego theft was “very, very prominent here in the north-west”, in part because sets can fetch $800.

“You could go to Fred Meyer and Walmart in many parts of the city, in the outlying areas, and you’ll actually see Lego sets are locked up,” Coughlin said.

“You will see shelves that are pretty much empty, and if you talk to the employees they will tell you someone literally came that morning, loaded up the cart full of Lego and just walked right out [of] there.”

This summer, the Amazon 4-Star, a store in downtown Seattle run by the online retail giant, said it was the target of a repeat shoplifter who stole electronics and Lego sets worth more than $10,000.

At the same time, Rummage Around, an operator at Pike Place, was selling popular sets based on Star Wars’ The Mandalorian and other franchises. To an employee of the Amazon store, the sets looked suspiciously familiar. A supervisor visited, saw identification stickers on sets and contacted law enforcement.

Seattle police commenced what they called “Operation: MandalOrganized Retail Theft”, going undercover to investigate the Pike Place seller.

Plainclothes officers visited the store to offer marked merchandise – specifically, a Baby Yoda Lego set – to its 67-year-old owner, Mark Brady. According to police reports, after an undercover detective told Brady he stole the set from Amazon 4-Star, Brady said he did not like that the set was marked but could cut the marker off.

The detective, police said, asked Brady: “What else do you need?”

Brady allegedly replied that he would take “Lego sets – the big ones”.

After weeks of investigation, police determined Brady was knowingly selling stolen goods. Saying Brady directed a “prolific” shoplifter to steal from retail stores, they also said that on one occasion the shoplifter sold multiple items to Brady while detectives were in his store. Police said they were still investigating the shoplifting suspect, who they had identified.

Brady was charged with trafficking stolen property, an offense which could lead to prison time.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Brady denied knowingly selling stolen goods and said fellow Pike Place business owners had created a GoFundMe account to help him retain a lawyer.

“I do want to fight this,” he said.

Brady told the Post he was unhappy with the photo of the allegedly stolen sets, which he said made him appear to be a “monster”. He also questioned how police could prove which sets were stolen, and said his life had recently been made “miserable”, through several surgeries and slowing business due to the pandemic.

Police said the investigation was continuing.