It’s not every day you come across a Lego crime boss, but police in Portland, Oregon, say they’ve arrested the leader of a ring that stole and resold Lego sets from stores in the community.
Raji Afife Azar, 40, faces charges of aggravated theft, money laundering and computer crimes, according to the Portland Police Bureau. Police found more than $50,000 in stolen Legos and other toys in his house following his arrest.
Azar faces accusations that he led a fencing operation that arranged thefts of Legos and other toys from Portland-area Fred Meyer stores, purchased them for pennies on the dollar, then resold them online, police said. Many of those committing the thefts suffered from drug addiction.
Undercover investigators posed as thieves online and met with Azar on Thursday to sell him supposedly stolen Legos, police said. They arrested him after the $13,000 transaction.
The probe grew out of one started by Fred Meyer investigators looking into thefts at the company’s stores.
Lego fans weren’t surprised by the lucrative thefts.
"If you create exclusivity and scarcity around anything, any product or toy, then people start demanding it more," LEGO fan James Ritzman told KATU.
Partnerships with movie studios for Lego sets featuring characters from Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones and other blockbuster films have pushed the product’s popularity to new heights.
“The Lego Movie,” released in 2014, grossed $469 million worldwide, winning several awards and a Best Song nomination at the Academy Awards.